Nowadays, the role of plastics in the automotive sector is undoubtedly of great importance. From design to production, plastic plays a fundamental part. The third most important sector in the consumption of plastics is the automotive industry, which in terms of the consumption of plastics is superseded only by the packaging industry and the building & construction industry.
One of the biggest concerns for manufacturers in the plastics industry around the world is the negative impact of the current pandemic on key end-markets. In the automotive sector, for example, of about 30,000 parts that are assembled to make an automobile, a third of these are made of plastic. Approximately 39 types of plastics and polymers are used in the manufacture of each car, whereby roughly 70% of these are obtained from 4 polymers: polyurethane, PVC, polypropylene, and polyamides.
Over time, plastic has become one of the main materials in the manufacture of vehicles, because of its structure, safety reasons due to plastics energy absorption capacities and more than justified performance reasons, where the weight of plastic plays an important role in increasing fuel efficiency and consequently, reducing gas emissions. So, what is expected to happen in the market in the next few years? What will be the most prominent trend?
Figure 1 Auto part targets for lightweight plastics and rubber. Illustration provided by 3M Company.
The current pandemic negatively affected the automotive sector for several months, where for each dollar, 4.6% is spent on plastic products according to the PLASTICS Industry Association size and impact report compiled this year. Even so, according to new information, which can be obtained from the data section on the PLASTICS website, it could be said that the automotive market is experiencing a V-shaped recovery, and it is expected that there will be a growth in the plastics industry in the next 7 years with a CAGR of 5%.
As stated by the PLASTICS Industry Association, “First, the auto and light truck assemblies have shown a V-shaped recovery. The very same could be mentioned about new orders for motor vehicles and parts. Second, the comparative ratio of car inventory to sales fell to pre-COVID-19 levels. Third, capacity utilization in the manufacturing of transportation equipment was 70% in July and August. However, car and light truck sales of 15.2 million units that were completed by August still have some catching up to work with. Having said that, the previous concerns of the plastics industry, that this lucrative end market will crash for longer are highly likely not to materialize unless the momentum of economic growth is stopped”. (Perc Pineda, PLASTICS Chief Economist, 2020).