The increasing need for decreasing the automobile’s weight through various structural changes, coupled with the stressing demand for developing the fuel economy are the main factors driving the automotive composites demand in various geographies. The rising focus on innovations in design to enhance the functionalities of the vehicle is expected to bolster the engineering composites demand. This is further attributed to rising demand from consumers for fuel efficient and fast vehicles. Stringent regulations regarding the reduction of carbon emissions from vehicles is another significant factor in accelerating the automotive composites demand.
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The assimilation of engineered composites in both interior and exteriors by many large-scale vehicle manufacturers is attributing to the growth of this market. Rising stress on producing lightweight vehicles across the world is further providing a robust boost to the automotive composites demand. Developments involving polymer-reinforced composites for automotive applications will extraordinarily improve the performance of the vehicle, thereby boosting the growth of automotive composites market. In recent years, extensive development initiatives by large-scale automotive manufacturers relating to engine downsizing in the coming years will further accentuate the automotive composites market growth.
In the coming years, the market would witness some significant innovations, with the implementation of composites in powertrain, which will provide untapped opportunity areas for market growth. Moreover, the inclination of automakers towards the development of fuel efficiency, coupled with weight reduction advantages will become a major driver for the growth of this market.
The manufacturers will require to invest significant costs in the manufacturing of automotive composites. This may show some negative affect on the product penetration amongst the consumers. Product damage in case of accidents will require replacement of the entire part, as they are non-repairable. This may also affect the automotive composites market growth. Key players in this market are increasing their focus on improving their production capacities to reduce the overall costs, which may further lead to the development of economies of scale in this market. These kinds of strategies will make the product affordable for all the manufacturers.
The automotive composites market was over US$ 10.21 billion in 2017 and is projected to expand at a CAGR over 7.2% during 2018 – 2025.
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Glass fiber had the highest share of the global automotive composites market in 2017
Glass fiber held the major share in terms of volume in 2017, due to its cost-effective solution compared to other fibers. The performance of glass fiber composites can be improved with the use of a wide range of resins. These composites are used based on the application requirement, along with various resins to improve the product performance.
Recently, a government-driven project in Japan, to establish carbon-fiber composites technology for incorporating in automobiles is conducted by the National Composites Center (NCC). All components used are made up of aluminum alloys and are further replaced by C-LFT-D components which improved 10% reduction in weight, with the same mechanical strength that was observed and verified. These kinds of developments incorporating the glass fiber composites for automotive applications will improve the demand for glass fiber composites over the forecast period.
Thermoset resin automotive composites are highly preferred over thermoplastic composites
There are many types of composites available in thermoset composites. BMC, SMC, and STC are some composites having very high strength and stability. These materials find a wide range of applications in manufacturing various automotive components. Some other applications where these automotive composites are currently used include air deflectors and spoilers, frames for windows/sunroofs, air-intake manifolds, front-end grill opening panels, battery casings and covers, headlamp housings, bumpers and bumper beam, heat shields, cylinder head (e.g. valve, rocker, cam) covers, and pillars and coverings.
Many of these composites are used in places, where Class A surface finishing is required, as these composite materials can tolerate the required bake and paint cycles of automobiles.
Technologies such as the use of fast-cure resins are majorly used, as they provide faster processing. At present, there are some quicker processing methods of thermoset composites, and they include high-pressure RTM, resin transfer molding (RTM), and wet compression molding.
The suppliers of the automotive composite are focusing more on using epoxy resins, due to its superior modulus and high adhesive strength, coupled with very minute creep, and good fatigue performance.
The snap-cure is the fastest technology available. According to Peter Cate, the global strategic marketing manager of composite structures at Dow Automotive Systems, the snap-cure technology is significantly triggered by the exposure of the material to tool temperature. This Snap cure alone is very easy to achieve but can be used only when the resin infused the fiber fully.
Key players in this market developed various resins for incorporation in automotive composites. For instance, Dow introduced VORAFORCE, a fast-curing automotive epoxy infusion resin platform in 2014. Similarly, Hexion, Inc., Hexcel, Toray Composites, Cytec Industries, and Huntsman etc. have developed various resins for the use in both thermoset and thermoplastic composites.
Exterior application segment held the largest share of the global automotive composites market
Growing consumer demand for comforts in the vehicle interiors will significantly drive the use of automotive composites market for interior applications. According to many industry experts, consumers are majorly purchasing vehicles with good looks, aesthetic interiors, and fuel-efficient. So, due to this, the manufacturers are working hard to meet the customer’ requirements, and are developing vehicles with long-term durability, and internal developments. All these manufacturers are coming up with incorporating different composites to improve the vehicle’s performance in terms of looks and functionality.
Different materials must be developed to ensure the long-term durability, as the components used in exterior applications require longer life spans. Moreover, cabin surfaces in the interiors of vehicles, not only needed to be enhanced in terms of color, but also in terms of grain and gloss.
Growing consumer and OEM’s strong interest in utilizing and manufacturing green technology-based monomers and other reinforcements, which reduce the vehicle’s weight, carbon footprint, and cost have united with stringent regulations on volatile organic compound (VOC) emissions, odor, and fogging to improve the pressure on vehicle interior designers.
All these factors, attributed with huge pressure on all vehicle manufacturers to maintain costs, along with meeting consumer demand for greater convenience, comfort, and luxury, have opened up marvelous opportunities for the manufacturers based on reinforced plastics.
One of the interesting and new automotive-composite materials is a polymer that provides both thermosetting and thermoplastic properties. This kind of composites holds extraordinary potential for reducing weight, and improving vehicle’s performance.
All these benefits attribute to the environment conservation, as they reduce VOC emissions. The manufacturers are focusing more on developing composites with lower VOC emissions for both exterior and interior vehicle applications. These polymers will also deliver applied benefits in terms of manufacturing, predominantly in the automotive interior applications.
Asia Pacific is the largest regional market the global automotive composites market
Currently, the Asia Pacific automotive composites market had the largest market share in terms of both volume and revenue, primarily attributed to China, South Korea, and Japan. This is majorly due to the growing automotive production in these countries. According to OICA, the automotive production in China was over 29.0 million vehicles in 2017, with a growth of nearly 3.2% from the previous year. Similarly, in India, the production reached nearly 4.8 million vehicles in 2017, with a growth of over 5.8% from the previous year. Moreover, major manufacturers in these countries are further planning to improve their production capacities, which will improve the market growth.
Asia Pacific regional market is expected to capture a higher revenue share till the end of 2025. Huge presence of vehicle manufacturers in the region, coupled with constantly rising production, particularly in the developing countries including China and India will significantly support the market revenue generation.
Europe automotive composites market will grow at a notable CAGR, owing to an extensive composites usage, majorly due to stringent regulations in the EU region, regarding carbon emissions from automobiles. Increasing R&D investments, coupled with highly-established automobile industry in the countries like Germany will further propel the Europe automotive composites market growth over the projected timeframe.
Prominent players in the global automotive composites market include Mitsubishi Rayon Co Ltd, Cytec Solvay Group, Jushi Group Co Ltd., SGL Group, ACP Composites, Hexcel Corporation, DowAksa, Polar Manufacturing, and Rock West Composites among many others.
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