plastics use to rise
AUTOMOTIVE NEWS STAFF
BANGKOK (September 19, 2005) -- Half of the specially engineered
plastics used in India’s automotive industry are currently
sourced globally, and the plastics content of cars made in India
is expected to rise 30 percent by 2010, said Sunil Malhotra,
deputy general manager of Maruti Udyog Ltd., a partner in India’s
largest car maker.
“There is a lot of opportunity” in India, he told a group of
three dozen plastics professionals at the Auto Plastic Asia: New
Materials and Applications conference in Bangkok on September 14.
Several factors are behind the high global sourcing rate in
India, said Malhotra: The raw material for some specially
engineered plastics -- such as special grades of polycarbonate
and acrylonitrile styrene acrylate -- are not available locally.
New technology is also not available locally.
For example, the compounding technology for new generation
materials is unavailable in India. Consequently, the high-flow,
high-impact raw material to manufacture low thickness bumpers
can’t be found in India, he said.The growing number of free-trade
agreements in Asia has also made global sourcing more
Still, India’s use of plastics -- including specially engineered
plastics -- in locally produced, light-weight vehicles is
expected to rise from 60 kilograms per vehicle in 2005 to 80
kilograms per vehicle by 2010, Malhotra said. That compares to
the current 120 kilograms per vehicle in the United States,
Japan, and Europe.
At the same time, India’s vehicle market sales growth is one of
the fastest in the world. Sales should grow by around 10 percent
to 1.3 million units in 2005, said Paul Blokland, director of
Segment Y automotive consultancy in Bangalore, India.
Of that, 80 percent will be light vehicles.
Segment Y forecasts India’s vehicle market to show about a 10
percent compounded annual growth rate for the next five years,
reaching 2 million units by 2011.
If India’s Tata Motors is able to realize its scheme to build
dozens of local plants that will assemble a $2,200 car (RMB
17,800), Segment Y’s sales forecast for 2011 will increase to 2.5
million units, said Blokland. The Tata car would have a 600CC
engine with a continuously variable transmission.
To be sure, there are potholes in the road to success for foreign
plastics companies in India. For one, engineered plastics
represent only a small slice of the automotive plastics market in
Plastics consumption based on the vehicle segment in India is
dominated by passenger cars, which accounted for 35 percent of
plastic consumption from 2002-03, according to Malhotra.
Motorcycles were next at 28 percent, followed by scooters, also
at 28 percent of total consumption.
Most of the plastic used in passenger cars -- 46 percent -- is
made from PP, a widely available material. Maruti-Suzuki (India),
by far India’s largest passenger car maker with 43 percent market
share, consumed 3,207 tons a year of polypropylene in 2004-05.
But India is a net exporter of both PP and polyethylene plastics.
Domestic suppliers include Reliance Industries Ltd. of Mumbai,
Indian Petrochemicals Corp. Ltd. in Vadodara, and Haldia
Petrochemicals Ltd. of Haldia. Foreign suppliers include Idemitsu
Petrochemical Co. Ltd. of Tokyo, Basell Polyolefins in Elkton,
Maryland, and Mitsui Chemicals Inc. in Osaka, Japan.
Another hurdle: India’s relatively low production volume means
that it wouldn’t be economical to produce just for the India
market. Yet testing and approval systems and standards vary from
company to company and region to region. Materials made for India
might not pass other places.
For example, Europe uses ISO and DIN, while the United States use
SAE. Southeast Asia uses JIS and SAE.
Malhotra predicts that automakers will unite behind a common
approval system, but others are skeptical.
“Global specifications are a good idea,” said Marc Setzen,
managing director EM/TPE Europe for PolyOne Th. Bergmann GmbH of
“But the ‘China price’ means the lowest global price would have
to be met, [and] we are struggling with meeting global
specifications at the lowest price.”