The steel cord market is expected to observe steady growth owing to the increasing demand for radial tires especially in the automotive industry. Steel cords are used in reinforcing tires to provide the strength and resistance of expansion during the turning/rotation of the tire. It is also used to withstand deformations caused by bumps or any obstacles in the road.
Growing concern on environmental pollution and stringent regulations on reducing greenhouse gas emissions such as the European government’s CO2 emissions target. In 2015, the emissions target from the passenger car was 130gm/km. This is renewed by setting a new target of CO2 emissions for passenger cars to be 95gm/km from 2020. This is likely to promote the demand for lightweight vehicles including electric vehicles to reduce fuel consumption.
According to the International Energy Agency, global electric vehicle sales are expected to reach 23 million by 2030 and the consumption of global lightweight vehicles is anticipated to reach nearly 105 million tons by 2025. This is likely to augment demand for radial tire, which in turn is expected to fuel the product demand over the coming years.
With the growing innovative technologies, the steel cord can be recycled from tires and used in concrete as it controls crack propagation and has better durability. Steel cord concrete mixes have better compressive strength characteristics. This concrete can be used in the construction of new buildings, remodeling for buildings, and road construction. Recycled steel cords in road construction helps in reducing the thickness by up to 16%, thus reducing the cost of construction.
The growing infrastructure developments and buildings, especially in the U.S., China, and India is anticipated to augment the steel cord market growth over the coming years. In 2019, the United States Department of Transportation announced proposed grants of USD 856 million through the Infrastructure for Rebuilding America (INFRA) discretionary grant program to improve bridges, highways, ports, and railways in the country. This is likely to promote the use of recycled steel cords over the coming years.
Traditional steel cords are being replaced by high-tensile steel cords as they reduce the weight of the radial tire by 16%, thus reducing the fuel consumption. Advantages of high-tensile steel over normal cords include high strength & modulus, ensures safety, and better heat resistance.
Despite the advantages of the steel cord, it also has a disadvantage of offering a slightly rougher ride as the steel cord does not give under the impact. Steel cords have substitutes in the tire industry such as arid and kevlar cords. These cords provide high strength and are lighter than steel. These are also cost-effective solutions that are likely to hamper the market growth over the coming years.
Based on the application, the steel cord market is segmented into automobiles and conveyor belts. Increasing production of automobiles including, cars, trucks, and off-road vehicles is anticipated to augment the demand for radial tires. According to the International Organization of Motor Vehicle Manufacturers (OICA), the production of automobiles increased by 7.8% from 2014 to 2018. This is likely to encourage tire manufacturers to increase production capacity to the demand from the automotive industry. For instance, in July 2019, Toyo Tire Corporation announced to produce 13.9 million passenger and light truck tires annually by January 2021 with an investment of nearly USD 65 million. This is likely to boost the demand for steel cords over the coming years.
In conveyor belts, steel cords provide reliable and wear-resistant reinforcement with low elongation and also provide high splice strength due to enhanced safety and service life. These belts are used in heavy-duty applications such as mining, steel plants, power plants, stone quarries, tunneling, and ports. The increasing use of conveyor belts to unload bulk freights in these industries is anticipated to augment the market growth over the coming years.
Based on geography, the market is segmented into North America, Asia Pacific, Central & South America, Europe, and Middle East & Africa. In terms of volume, Asia Pacific was the largest segment in 2018 owing to the rising demand for automobiles in the region. Major tire manufacturers are expanding their presence in countries such as China and India to meet the growing demand from potential customers. For instance, in July 2019, CEAT Ltd. announced to increase its production capacity across its plants in India with an investment of USD 487.5 million to serve the Indian automotive industry.
The major players of the steel cord market are Sumitomo Electric Industries, Ltd., Bekaert Tata Wiron, ArcelorMittal Rongcheng Steel Cord Co. Ltd. Jiangsu Xingda Steel Tyre Cord Co., Ltd., Hyosung, and Henan Hengxing Science & Technology Co., Ltd. The key vendors of the market are adopting strategies like mergers & acquisitions, expansion of production capacities, and increasing R&D activities to improve product performance. In February 2014, Bekaert acquired Pirelli's steel cord division with a long-term agreement to supply steel cords to Pirelli. The acquisition includes four cord manufacturing sites in Figline, Italy; Slatina, Romania; Izmit, Turkey; Yanzhou, China; and Sumarè, Brazil. This was aimed to enhance Bekaert’s market share in tire supplies.
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