What is the Center for Automotive Research (CAR) Management Briefing?

At CAR meetings, executives come together to talk about a number of things involving the automotive industry; these are mainly high-level talks; we don’t get to the specifics. For example, when Ford mentioned cutting 200-700 pounds, it briefly mentioned how it planned to achieve this goal and materials selection was mentioned generally as an approach to make that happen.

What are lightweighting options?

One way to cut weight is to turbo-charge a 4-cylinder engine instead of integrating a heavier 6-cylinder. It’s smaller, more lightweight and the structure supporting it might be less massive. We think glass replacement is an obvious opportunity area for plastics and composite material. Clear polycarbonate can save up to 50 percent of the mass instead of glass with some sort of thermoset polyurethane surrounding or framing the polycarbonate for a roof module. Using a thermoplastic frame would be a modular concept to replacing a glass centered module, reducing the car’s center of gravity, which can help from a performance stand point as well.

How does the American market compare to the global economy?

China moves quickly. China is emerging as the biggest consumer and producer of vehicles in the world and they have many cities that are becoming mega cities – 22 million people live in Shanghai alone. The Chinese are committed to the use of electric vehicles instead of tinkering with internal combustion. That also means they’re open to looking at technologies for making electric cars efficient. Lightweighting technology companies seem to be more willing to discuss options that are not mainstream to help reach goals of fuel efficiencies.

Europe and America are very good at being methodical in their approach for their technologies. Polycarbonate glazing has penetrated in European markets more than North America. The Asian market is very important for polycarbonates and polyurethane – manufacturing in general. It’s important to have a presence in Asia, which is why Bayer is making new investment there.

What are some key issues you think that keep the industry from growing?

Acceptance of change is still the largest hindrance. When you are competing with materials like steel and glass that have been around since the beginning of the automotive industry, trying to change materials takes time. You have to build up credibility and applications. Secondly, companies want to make sure that the technology you provide is on the road and proven. All of us have to create business cases. If you build it, it will come. Credibility is the only way companies can make a sound business decision. We are willing to make that leap.