Composites are becoming the material of choice for replacing traditional materials such as steel, aluminum and engineering plastics in European automotive industry. Compared to traditional materials, composites have higher strength-to-weight ratios, chemical and heat impact resistance, offer greater design flexibility. The future of the composite materials in European automotive industry market compared to competing materials looks good. Also, Europe has come up as leading region using advanced high performance carbon-epoxy composites in racing and luxury cars, though at a nascent stage. However, demand for composites that dropped significantly during 2008, is expected to drop further in 2009 in line with overall automotive market. According to researchandmarkets.com, composites materials market is expected to reach US$1824.9 mln by 2014. Composites consumption in automotive applications such as air intake manifolds, front end carriers, interior headliners, pickup box, switches are expected to grow above 4% CAGR during the in the next 5 years. Producers, focusing on innovations and cost leadership will win most of the volume growth. Automotive OEMs are looking for new ways to reduce vehicle weight, further increasing fuel economy and thus increasing environmental performance. By developing new materials to meet the demanding application requirements with a focus on weight and cost reduction, composites materials suppliers will gain more market share during the next six years.
Despite economic slowdown significant opportunities exist for composites in the European automotive market and the market is expected to reach US$1824.9 mln by 2014. The European automotive industry output will expand significantly from 2009 to 2014. Following the rapid growth in auto production, composite materials demand in European market is forecast to increase by 6.87% pa and reach US$1824.9 by 2014. As per the study composites are being increasingly used as they can reduce weight up to 35%, which improves fuel economy. Composites also reduce tooling and assembly costs as composites have lower tooling and equipment costs; they are competitive compared to steel at lower production volumes in certain automotive applications. The use of composite materials, which initially was driven from exterior applications, has now spread to all areas of the vehicle's interior and under-the-hood applications. Under-the-hood and interior applications represent good growth potential. As the overall penetration was only 3% in automotive materials in 2008 there is much more potential for composites. Polypropylene based composites will drive the future growth of the European Automotive composites market. The critical success factor for composites material producers will increasingly be not only developing new products at low cost; in addition, the author believes the most successful companies will be those that can develop application-specific, customer-focused solutions and have the ability to help their customers achieve long-term business objectives, such as increasing performance or lowering costs.