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North American demand to exceed $30 billion in 2018
Demand for lightweight automotive materials in the North American (NA) light vehicle market is anticipated to reach 22 billion pounds in 2018, valued at more than $30 billion. Advances will significantly outpace gains in automotive materials overall, with regulatory pressure being the major force propelling growth. The current race to lighten the automobile is largely being driven by the increasingly strict fuel economy standards being adopted throughout North America. In August 2012, the US issued new corporate average fuel economy (CAFE) standards for model year 2017- 2025 light-duty vehicles, with a nominal requirement of 54.5 miles per gallon by 2025. Canada and Mexico have previously implemented standards aligned with US CAFE requirements, and are expected to do so going forward, as they seek to establish continent-wide regulations to ensure that their respective automotive industries remain competitive.
Lightweighting key to reach standards
Lightweighting represents a key strategy employed by automakers to comply with North America’s footprint-based fuel economy standards. By 2018, total light vehicle weight is projected to fall to roughly 3,700 pounds from about 3,900 pounds per unit in 2013. Declines are expected to accelerate over the longer term, as the decline in average vehicle curb weight will coincide with the rising use of lightweight materials. These materials will expand their share of automotive material demand to 45 percent in 2023, up from just 20 percent in 2003, as automakers strive to meet 2025 standards.
Exterior/structural segment to exhibit best growth
Among applications, the best growth prospects are forecast for the exterior and structural segment, propelled by the ongoing development of lightweight materials suitable for use in structural applications and the substantial weight savings such materials can provide. In fact, this sector will account for nearly 75 percent of overall vehicle weight savings through 2023, with body and frame applications alone accounting for about half of average vehicle weight reduction levels. Interior applications are relatively mature and will see only limited growth going forward, as plastics have long been utilized in interior components, thus restricting opportunities for further weight reduction.
Aluminum, high-strength steel lead materials demand
Materials suppliers will increasingly collaborate with automakers to engineer lightweight components in an effort to achieve significant weight reduction without sacrificing strength, safety, and durability. Aluminum and high-strength steel represent the primary lightweight materials employed in this market. Aluminum will enjoy rapid growth in exterior and structural applications, as automakers explore the adoption of this material in place of steel for body components such as closures and panels. High-strength steel is predicted to offer the best opportunities for growth based on its relatively low cost and the ongoing development of new grades that provide a combination of exceptional strength and formability, which will make it the material of choice for structure and frame applications. Engineering plastics will remain the leading polymer type through the forecast period, having successfully supplanted metals in many applications based on advantages such as enhanced design freedom. Demand for highperformance composites will rise rapidly from a small base due to their substantial weight savings potential, though high cost will remain an obstacle to growth.
Lightweight Automotive Materials in North America offers historical data (2003, 2008, 2013) plus forecasts (2018, 2023) for materials demand by product, application and country. The study also considers market environment factors, evaluates company market share and profiles 43 competitors.
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