Plastics have improved the performance, structure and safety of automobiles, and they are a major contributor to lightweighting and, thus, enable fuel efficiency and a reduction in greenhouse gas emissions. Consequently, the automotive plastics market has emerged as a vital business space: Valued at $23.7 billion globally in 2016, demand for plastics in the automotive sector is projected to expand 11% CAGR and reach a market value exceeding $50 billion by 2024.
Spurred by rigorous regulations, especially in terms of fuel efficiency, plastics are a key factor in the manufacture and design of automotive vehicles. In addition to reducing the mass of parts used in vehicles, plastics provide more design freedom vis-à-vis metals. Other advantages include the material’s recyclability, abrasion resistance, durability, strength and vibration control.
Based on research conducted by Global Market Insights (Selbyville, DE), here are some key trends that will define the automotive plastics market through 2024.
- Demand for polypropylene (PP) will increase. It is being sourced for automotive interiors and exteriors, as well as under-the-hood applications, often replacing metal parts. In a bid to neutralize battery weight, PP will proliferate as electric vehicle (EV) production surges.
- Polyethylene (PE) consumption is likely to remain stagnant. While high-density PE continues to replace steel in gas tanks, the newest trend affecting PE demand is the rising proliferation of EVs. In electric vehicles, PE mainly finds deployment in engine parts, since electrically powered engines obviate the need for plastics engineered for high-temperature environments.
- Although ABS consumption may take a hit as the use of PP composites increases, it will remain in demand for some high-end automobiles because of its perceived quality for automotive interiors. The use of ABS in wheel covers and body parts has been increasing on account of the fact that this material enhances toughness, impact resistance and heat resistance in the final plastic product.
- Polycarbonate (PC) is setting a new bar for autonomous vehicles, as well as in lighting and electrification in traditional vehicles. Also, PC exhibits exceptional impact, thermal, electrical and weathering properties. The combination of toughness, hardness and stiffness will drive the use of PC in the automotive plastics industry.
- PVC will witness traction thanks to its enhanced flame retardance, excellent flexibility, low (to no) lead content and high gloss. PVC can be compression molded, injection molded and blow molded to form a range of products. Accordingly, demand for PVC in automobile instrumental panels and doors is expected to grow through 2024.
- North America and Europe will continue to attract investors into the automotive plastics market, as polymer consumption in this sector experiences unprecedented growth through 2024.
Despite the buzz about advanced materials such as carbon fibers and aluminum, plastics continue to replace metals in automotive parts thanks to technological advances that have bolstered the material’s tensile strength and other properties.
Demand for plastics in automotive exteriors has brought a paradigm shift to auto body design. In addition to lightweighting, the use of plastics allows manufacturers to lower production costs, advance modular assembly practices and improve the aerodynamic properties of car exteriors.
Plastics help manufacturers to meet Corporate Average Fuel Economy (CAFE) standards and cater to market trends and the buying habits of consumers who want products and companies to be environmentally responsible. The adoption of polymer technologies by automotive engineers is expected to continue in passenger cars and mass transit vehicles. PE and PVC appear to stand out amid growing calls for recyclability, but demand for PC and PP also will continue to gain traction. The automotive plastics market will experience a remarkable transformation in the ensuing period.
Global Market Insights Inc. has published a market report dedicated to global automotive plastics. For more information and to purchase the report, go to the company’s website.
Image: Peterschreiber.media/Adobe Stock
About the author
Sunil Kumar Jha is Research Content Developer with Global Market Insights.