Rivets, especially self-piercing rivets (SPR), are one primary joining technology for vehicles using aluminum. SPR are mechanical joining elements that are used to connect sheets to create a structure to build a body in white (BiW). To ensure the structural performance of a vehicle in crash load cases it is necessary to describe physical occurring failure modes under overloading conditions in simulations. One failure mode is joint separation which need to be precisely predicted by a crash simulation. Within crash simulations a detailed analysis of a SPR joint and its process history would require a very high computational effort. The conflict between a detailed SPR joint and a macroscopic vehicle model need to solved by developing an approach that can handle an accurate macroscopic prediction of SPR behavior with a defined strength level with less computational effort. One approach is using a cohesive material model for a SPR connection. The paper describes cohesive element characteristics and calibration effort. Investigated element characteristics are an updated momentum calculation resulting from shear loads. It allows to adjust the width-height ratio for a constant meshing approach. Handling of lateral distortion of cohesive elements based on sheet deformation or failure of sheet elements and an elemental stabilization if the cohesive element becomes unconnected that comes along with advanced material models and deletion of sheet elements. The updated element characteristics are shown on principle models and the calibration is shown based on coupon level samples. Outlook is given on vehicle level and application for other joining technologies.