We’re seeing more and more production cars now featuring the exotic material, and for good reason. Carbon fiber is five times stronger than steel but weighs significantly less. Further, it has the flexibility to be formed into virtually any shape and the unpainted version has the appeal of giving owner’s vehicles that racing edge. It’s not unusual to see enthusiasts replacing everything from body panels to interior trim with carbon fiber versions.

Its strength and low weight, which improves fuel efficiency, has spurred the auto manufacturers into utilizing the material in more of their vehicles. Currently, only high-end performance vehicles such as the BMW M6 use the material. GM is just starting to use the stuff in its Corvette, and boy-racers have been using it for years to spruce up their cars.

Carbon fiber was originally designed for the aerospace industry but has spread into industries as diverse as sporting and fashion. More and more manufacturers are realising the benefits of the material and we're sure to see more vehicles incorporating it straight from the factory. Traditionally, cost was a major inhibitor but with current market prices of $8.50 per pound, it’s only a matter of time until we start to see ordinary cars built with the exotic stuff. The other major problem is repairs. A small accident can already cost thousands of dollars, but due to the nature of carbon fiber, which shatters rather than dents, the cost of fixing small problems would rise. Still, you can expect to see it in high-performance versions of common cars within the next few years.

Currently, use of the material in production vehicles can be a bit of a gimmick. Case in point is the carbon roof of the BMW M6, which BMW claims is there to reduce the center of gravity. But with a weight saving of only 4.5kg over the original is this benefit anything more than just scientific?