Plastics in automotive engineering: Next weeks difficult, but long-term outlook still bright


Mannheim, Germany-In 1970, plastic parts accounted for only about 5% of a car's total weight. Those of us who burned ourselves on metal dashboards and steering wheels won't argue with that number. Today, it's more like 15%, and the chance of the percentage climbing even higher is almost a given.

Based on talks here this week with numerous suppliers of materials, molds, and technology to the automotive industry, the pace of plastics' incursion into automotive applications still dominated by other materials will increase. Driving the accelerated pace of change will be carmakers' striving to reduce their vehicles' carbon dioxide emissions, new technologies such as electronically-powered cars, and more, according to Wolfgang Hopke, president, performance polymers at plastics supplier BASF (Ludwigshafen, Germany), who spoke to a packed house of processors, Tier suppliers and OEMs at his company's annual event here on the eve of the Plastics in Automotive Engineering conference organized by the German engineers' society, VDI.

"We assume hybrid and electric autos will continue to gain market share, and lower weight is critical to these (cars)," explained Hopke. The automotive industry has spoken of weight reduction for years, of course, but increased focus on CO2 emissions-also from legislators-could accelerate developments....
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