According to a new report by Global Market Insights, the global automotive plastics market will surpass $50 billion in annual sales by 2024.
Rising passenger-car production along with consumer demand for fuel-efficient, durable and lightweight vehicles should stimulate automotive plastics demand, particularly in China and India, where industrialization and urbanization are occurring rapidly.
Automotive plastics are used in various auto bodies and parts including chassis, powertrain, electronic components under the hood, exterior and interior furnishings and fuel systems. Plastics are durable, scratch- and abrasion-resistant, allow effective design molding and component integration, and improve vibration and noise control. Plastics are seeing increasing applications in fuel systems, electrical components, dashboards, upholstery and body panels.
In 2016, the average light vehicle contained about 330 lbs. (150 kg) of polymer composites and accounted for over 50% of total vehicle volume.
Automotive plastics in powertrain applications may register gains close to 10% by 2024. These include engine, driveshaft, gears, transmission and bearings. Use of plastics in chassis applications is likely to exceed 9% over the forecast period. Plastics provide chassis with strength, stability, flexibility, rigidity and crash resistance through energy absorption, and ensure low levels of vibrations, noise and harshness.
Crude oil and polymer resins are essential feedstock for production of polymers used in automotive-plastics manufacturing. High availability of raw materials, low cost and ease of manufacturing have made it possible to replace steel and other metals, leading to lighter weight and lower carbon-dioxide emissions in vehicles.
The major raw materials used in manufacturing automotive plastics are polyurethane (PU), acrylonitrite butadiene styrene (ABS), poly(methyl methacrylate) (PMMA), polyvinyl chloride (PVC) and polypropylene (PP). Lack of standardization of plastic materials along with sustainability issues will be a major challenge and may impact industry growth.
The size of the PMMA-based automotive-plastics market should surpass $1.3 billion by 2024. These chemicals are used in creating interior and exterior panels, molded parts and trims, along with applications in windows, screens and displays owing to its superior characteristics such as impact resistance, UV filtering, chemical resistance, accuracy in color, and weathering properties ensuring durability and longevity.
Polyurethane-based automotive-plastics demand may register gains of more than 10% owing to the material’s light weight, durability, corrosion resistance, insulation and sound-absorption properties. PU foams are used for making head restraints, cushioned instrumental panels, armrests and other interior components.
The ABS market could see growth exceeding 9.5% during the forecast timeframe. It is used in manufacturing dashboards, instrument panels, bumpers and body panels. The material’s light weight, toughness, flexibility and corrosion resistance should drive demand.
PVC-based automotive-plastics market demand is likely to surpass $1.9 billion during the foreseeable timeframe. These are mainly used in underbody coatings, sealants, door panels, seating, dashboards, armrests, window seals, weather strips and body-side protection.
Plastics Lead Lightweighting
Increasing environmental concerns about carbon emissions, coupled with rising consumer awareness regarding safety and reducing injury accidents, may contribute to industry growth.
North America’s automotive-plastics market, with steady gains in the U.S. and Canada, is poised to exceed $5 billion by 2024 owing to the rise in consumer preferences for lightweight and fuel-efficient vehicles.
OEMs’ efforts to reduce vehicle weight and provide cost-effective solutions may positively affect regional growth. Stringent government rules regarding carbon-dioxide emissions and fuel economy have driven OEMs to search for various ways to reduce vehicle weight.
China’s automotive-plastics market may register gains close to 10% by 2024 owing to rapid industrialization and increased auto production. Rising foreign investment along with increasing consumer demand may stimulate industry growth in the region. Automotive OEMs will focus on online retail channels to help maintain a direct relationship with buyers.
Europe’s automotive-plastics market, driven by Germany, Russia, the U.K. and France, are projected to exceed $14 billion by 2024. Stringent European Commission guidelines regarding end-of-life vehicles, along with reducing greenhouse-gas emissions, may favor regional industry growth. A strong focus on R&D spending may favor industry growth in the region.
In Brazil, automotive plastics should witness significant growth at over 10.5% up to 2024. Rising domestic demand, coupled with economic stability, has led to a rise in car production, thereby stimulating industry growth.
India’s automotive-plastics market for electrical-components applications alone may exceed 838,000 lbs. (380,000 kg) by 2024 as vehicle production rapidly increases. Plastics find wide applications in batteries and switches owing to its high strength and low friction. The Indian government encourages foreign direct investment in the automobile sector and plans to invest in eco-friendly cars, thereby promoting automotive-plastics market growth.
Prominent industry participants in the automotive-plastics market include BASF, Delphi, Celanese, DSM, Evonik, SABIC, RTP, Lear, Borealis, Adient and Covestro. These and other companies are investing in R&D to comply with government standards and enhancing their product portfolios by forming joint ventures and partnerships.
Expanding manufacturing hubs and government spending on advanced technology may contribute to the automotive plastics industry’s growth.
Kunal Ahuja is manager-chemicals and materials for Global Market Insights. He has experience in strategy building, consulting and publishing syndicated market-research studies.