It's that time of the year again. PlasticsToday takes a look inside its acrylic (or is it polycarbonate?) ball and hazards a forecast of what plastics processors can expect from the auto sector in 2015.
Lower resin prices
Crude oil prices collapsed towards the end of 2014 and the word on the street is that in 2015, they could continue to trend much lower than 2014 levels. That's good news for molders, and potentially good news for car sales. In 2014, global passenger vehicle (including pickup truck) sales looked set to reach 71.6 million units, with the U.S. experiencing a bumper year (16.5 million unit sales). Could we also see even higher sales in 2015?
More work on safety issues
We mentioned safety standards last year as a key theme and this proved to be the case. Consider the Takata fiasco, with millions of potentially faulty airbags on the road throughout the world, or the abysmal crash rating of the made-in-India budget Datsun Go. There's definitely scope for more work to be done to ensure the safety of passengers and pedestrians, be it keeping a close eye on QC or building cars for emerging markets to better safety standard.
Or at least more. Polycarbonate glazing is slowly but surely making inroads into the auto sector. We came across impressive examples of sunroofs and front fixed windows this year. We expect to see new examples in 2015.
Hidden below the hood, engine covers, sump guards, and various air management systems are increasingly likely to be made from plastic. With more turbocharger usage and increasing compact engine bays placing a higher premium on real estate below the bonnet, the design flexibility and temperature resistance attributes of engineering plastics will come to the fore.
Carbon fiber to the fore
Speaking of fore, carbon fiber composites are starting to appear in quasi-mass market vehicles particularly with the emergence of a couple of BMW models. While 2015 might not be the breakthrough year for carbon fiber, a lot of development work is likely as technology purveyors and automakers target reduced overall costs.