A new report from Textile Media Services suggests this is the ‘make-or-break’ decade for carbon fiber composites in vehicles.
The global automotive industry's annual turnover is now approaching a value of US$2 trillion. To put this in context, only the nine richest countries in the world are worth more, with the tenth, Russia – with an approximate gross domestic product in 2015 of US$1.9 trillion – about its equal.
The world's vehicle population is now more than 1 billion (while in 2015, the world's population is estimated at 7.3 billion). But there is currently a sense that this huge industry is poised to change as never before, opening up a wide range of new opportunities.
The key issues that have driven change for the past couple of decades most certainly include the ongoing global shift in mass vehicle manufacturing centers from the USA, Europe and Japan to developing countries, notably China, and to a lesser extent Indonesia and India, and to lower-cost regions within Europe. There have been migrations in both the markets and the balances of power between the automotive manufacturers.
Just a decade ago, in 2005, it was widely predicted that China would account for approximately 50% of automotive growth in Asia between 2006 and 2010, and that some 6.5 million vehicles would be made in the country in 2010.
This turned out to be something of an underestimate, and as automotive production collapsed in the USA, Western Europe and Japan, 8.9 million light vehicles were produced in China in 2008.
China then became the world's largest car market in 2009, when sales in the country climbed by 45% and production reached 13.6 million units. In 2014, China's production of cars and commercial vehicles was 23.7 million units.
The economic crisis of 2007–08 also had far-reaching effects on the automotive industry and the way it now operates globally. At the same time, massive efforts continue to be required to harmonize requirements and technology, with marked differences from one country to another, resulting from different public policies, local conditions, infrastructures and economies of scale.
Beyond this, however, are environmental and social concerns that call for a paradigm shift – not only in the way the automotive industry is structured, but also in what it is producing.