The global automotive plastics market was valued at 7,962.1 kilo tons in 2013. The superiority of design, better resistance to weathering and versatility in applications has made these compounds the most popular form of design material in automotive. Stringent government regulations regarding reducing vehicular emissions are forcing manufacturers to shift towards light weight plastics as substitutes for metals such as aluminum and steel.
Right from screw-on attachments used in furnishings to the more cost-intensive body parts; these materials have made huge headways into the automotive industry. An average car consists of plastics ranging from 5.8% to 10% depending on performance requirements and fuel efficiency standards, with consumption in vehicular components accounting for approximately 105 kg in weight. This percentage is expected to increase in the future owing to growing requirement from consumers for light weight, fuel efficient and high-performance vehicles
Apart from reducing vehicular weight, these compounds are also used to improve aesthetics, reduce noise and vibrations and cabin insulation. The high cost of raw material required to manufacture automotive plastics and massive investments required are expected to pose challenges for the global industry. Most common products are derived from petrochemicals, a downstream of crude oil and thus their supply is dependent to an extent on the supply of crude oil. Non-degradable nature is expected to remain a hindrance to the industry growth as it poses issues in terms of dispersibility and recyclability.
North America automotive plastics market volume by product, 2012 – 2022, (Million Tons)
Major products analyzed in the report include ABS, polypropylene, polyurethane, PVC, polyethylene, polycarbonate, PMMA and polyamide. Polypropylene was the leading product segment and accounted for over 28% of the overall market volume in 2014. Engineering plastics and metals have been extensively replaced by polypropylene (PP) based materials in automotive parts in order to achieve weight reductions and cost savings. Polyethylene and polypropylene foams are widely used for noise & vibration dampening, the smooth contour of components, and thermal stability.
PMMA is relatively a smaller product segment and accounted for just over 1.5% of the overall volume in 2014. However, the product is expected to be the fastest growing in terms of demand due to its increasing usage in automotive windows, glazing, light covers and trims as a substitute for glass.
On the basis of application, the global automotive plastics industry is segmented into power trains, electrical components, interior & exterior, under the hood and chassis. Interior & exterior was the largest application with demand estimated at 2,619.1 kilo tons in 2013. Bumpers & fascia systems, body panels, light panels and steering wheels are major components that utilize plastics. Transportation safety authorities across the globe have made airbags a mandatory feature in passenger cars as a safety measure. This trend is expected to drive demand in airbags.
Plastics are increasingly being used in internal transmission parts and universal joint bolts for power train applications. Industry players have been actively adopting composites in manufacturing internal transmission parts such as wire harnesses, gear spurs, extension springs, rotary dampers, and pulleys & belts. This help reduces wear & tear and a number of components in a transmission part which are otherwise found in metals. Increasing consumption of polyetherimide and phenolic resins is expected to drive the application segment growth.
Asia Pacific, automotive plastics market, continued its dominance worldwide and accounted for 53.5% of overall volume in 2014. APAC is characterized by increasing automobile manufacturing in China, India, Japan, and Korea. Major European and American companies such as Volkswagen and Ford have established production plants in India, which has resulted in technology transfer to the region and has helped the evolution of automotive component manufacturing process.
The Middle East & Africa is expected to be the fastest growing region with Saudi Arabia being a focus in terms of consumption. Increasing automobile aftermarket sales in the country are projected to drive MEA market over the forecast period.
Major companies operating at global level include AkzoNobel, BASF, Bayer MaterialScience, Momentive, Quadrant AG, Lear Corp., Borealis, Johnson Controls, Teijin Ltd., The Dow Chemical Co. and Evonik Industries. Automotive plastics market share is moderately concentrated with top four companies accounting for 69.1% of the overall share in 2014. SABIC recorded the highest share in power train applications. BASF led the electrical components application segment while Momentive Specialty Chemicals was the leading company for under the hood applications.
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