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Light weighting to drive global automotive plastics market beyond US$41 bln by 2020

Light weighting to drive global automotive plastics market beyond US$41 bln by 2020

Shift in trend towards reducing the overall weight of automobiles in both developed and emerging markets is expected to drive the market for automotive plastics in the next five years. The global market for automotive plastics is expected to reach US$41.49 bln by 2020, according to a new study by Grand View Research, Inc. However, volatile raw material prices are expected to remain a key challenge for market players. Further key findings from the study suggest:

  • Global automotive plastics demand was 7,962.1 kilo tons in 2013 and is expected to reach 14,851.0 kilo tons by 2020, growing at a CAGR of 9.4% from 2014 to 2020.
  • Electrical components were the most dominant application for automotive plastics as the segment accounted for 37% of total market volume in 2013. Electrical components were followed by interior and exterior furnishings at 32.8% of total market volume in 2013. Power trains are expected to be the fastest growing application market for automotive plastics at an estimated CAGR of 10.4% from 2014 to 2020.
  • Asia Pacific continued its dominance in the global automotive plastics industry and accounted for 53.2% of total market volume in 2013 and is expected to continue leading the market over the forecast period. Asia Pacific along with the largest market is also expected to be one of the fastest growing markets for automotive plastics, at an estimated CAGR of 10% from 2014 to 2020. Growth of automotive industry particularly in emerging markets of China and India is expected to fuel the regional demand for automotive plastics.
  • The global market for automotive plastics is fairly concentrated with top four companies including BASF, Johnson Control Inc., Evonik Industries and AkzoNobel accounting for just over 55% of total market in 2013. Other key companies operating in the global market include Delphi Automotive PLC, Solvay Plastics, DIC Corporation and Magna International Inc.
  • Polypropylene emerged as the leading product segment and accounted for 37.6% of total market volume in 2013, followed by polyurethane at 16%. Polyurethane is also expected to be the fastest growing product segment, at an estimated CAGR of 9.9% from 2014 to 2020.

The development of automotive engineering thermoplastics will go into overdrive as fuel-efficiency regulations add to pressures for vehicle light weighting.  Engineering thermoplastics continue to achieve market advances, including the prevalence of carbon fiber-reinforced polymer (CFRP) and other new materials that were formerly feasible only in very high-end cars. The automotive plastics industry recognizes there are additional opportunities via newer materials that can further decrease weight, improve vehicle styling and performance, and comply with environmental regulations. Tomorrow's engineering plastics will need to be even stronger, more lightweight, and able to withstand higher temperatures. Grand View Research's senior research analyst, Anshuman Bahuguna, told ThomasNet News that the materials used in previous generations of cars simply cannot stand the heat today. Super-engineered thermoplastics such as PEEK (polyether ether ketone), PMMA (polymethyl methacrylate), and TPV (thermoplastic vulcanizates)/TPO (thermoplastic olefins) will have a role to play, since they have been shown to offer consistent performance in more extreme operating conditions. Advances in joining techniques as well as in materials are allowing metal and non-metal materials to be used alongside one another in places that were inconceivable before. This permits automakers to mix and match ideal components while streamlining production. Advanced composite materials like TCA (Tough Class A) sheet molding compound can often be painted alongside metal parts at the vehicle assembly plants.
Nanotechnology is also likely to play a role in the automotive engineering plastics market as well, ass per ThomasNet News. The nanotech coatings can actually erase damage done to a car's surfaces through time, temperature and UV exposure and make surfaces impervious to scratches. The flow behavior of certain injection molding plastics can also be improved via nanotechnology, which leads to more efficient processes and higher quality components. There are also thermoplastic nanotubes on the horizon - these are nanocomposites between 50 and 150 nanometers thick that can be used to conduct electricity with the same capacity as copper while at the same time providing greater bending flexibility than copper wiring. All of these technological developments may benefit the wider plastics industry and not just the automotive field. Bahuguna noted that as more part applications turn to plastics, growth opportunities will become exponential for manufacturers working in other markets. This diversification of automotive plastics will provide a new source of revenue for automotive [suppliers] and the market could expand further into other manufacturing disciplines.

The global automotive plastics industry is estimated to grow significantly during 2014-2019, and is expected to reach an estimated value of US$22.2 billion by 2019, as per Lucintel. Major drivers of automotive plastics industry are the increasing demand of lightweight materials, government regulations and improvements in vehicle design. Asia Pacific is leading the global automotive plastics industry with strong growth in vehicle production.
Polypropylene was the major segment in the automotive plastics industry by volume in 2013, and it is expected to remain the same during the forecast period. Increasing utilization of plastics in vehicle design and revival in vehicle production are going to increase the demand of automotive plastics industry. Plastic helps auto manufacturers to reduce its production and assembly costs and produce more attractive, yet more appealing functional designs. Growing demand of vehicles from emerging economies, such as China, India, and Latin American countries is anticipated to boost the industry. Volatile raw materials prices and huge investment in new material research activities are the major challenges faced by the industry players. Biodegradable plastics, such as PHA, PCL and PBS, offer a better opportunity to the major players in the automotive plastics industry.

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