Crude oil in December 2015 averaged from $36-$40/barrel. Gas prices are plummeting all over the country; Michigan was the first state to have gas under $1/gallon in over a decade just a few days ago. Interest rates are still low, people seem to have more confidence in the economy and North American automotive production is reaching record levels. Americans like their cars.
So what does this mean for automotive nonwovens?
According to an article in the Detroit Free Press, car makers estimate that there will be 76 new model launches in 2016 and 74 more in 2017. The National Automobile Dealers Association forecasts that 17.7 million new vehicles will be sold in 2016. That’s more opportunity for lighter, quieter vehicles.
Currently, there are around 40 different applications for nonwovens in vehicles. However, as engineers strive to make newer, better, faster, quieter models, there is room for expansion, especially in interiors.
Interior nonwoven applications are typically hidden. Nonwovens abound in door panels, carpet linings, headliners and seat cushions. But, with the advent of new technology in nonwoven manufacturing, there may be room to incorporate nonwoven fabrics into more seat covers. Nonwovens can be made softer and stronger now than ever before. And, with some additives, they can be made stain- and water-resistant. That’s a pretty good sell for a busy mom carting around sticky, accident-prone kids! Automotive design engineers and nonwoven manufacturers can certainly put their heads together to come up with some innovative applications for nonwovens in car interiors. And, in spite of some significant technology considerations, nonwoven fabrics are often less expensive than the alternatives
Whether they apply them in the interior, the engine compartment or in the trunk, there is no doubt that automotive manufacturers already love nonwoven fabrics. And, with more and more automobiles rolling out of American factories, it certainly makes sense that the market for automotive nonwovens is sure to increase in the coming two or three years while the costs are lower for consumers and their appetite for that brand new car is up.
2016 should be a very good year.
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