Automotive industry is evolving. Can suppliers evolve with it?


At the recent Plastics-In-Motion automotive conference held in Dearborn, MI, it became obvious after listening to just the first few speakers that the industry is changing dramatically. Can the processors supplying the automotive industry keep up? And more importantly, can they be profitable? That's the big question.

Daron Gifford, Partner in Plante Moran's Strategy Practice and leader of Strategy and Automotive Industry Consulting Practices, gave the attendees a glimpse of the megatrends in the automotive industry. The most pressing trend is mass/weight reduction. Currently, steel, high-strength steel (HSS) and advanced high-strength steel (AHSS) make up a total of 67% of a vehicle's weight (52% steel and 15% HSS and AHSS). By 2030, it is projected that the total weight of a vehicle will be comprised of 13% steel and 38% HSS and AHSS for a total of 51%.

With materials technology rapidly evolving away from steel and high-strength steel to carbon fiber and composites/plastics, Gifford said that the percentage of vehicle weight comprised of these materials will go from the current 10% to 16.5% by 2030. I think nearly every presenter at the conference mentioned carbon-fiber-reinforced plastics (CFRP) at least once in their talks.

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