The wind industry provided a bright spot in 2020, witnessing double-digit growth despite a temporary slowdown in March and April due to supply chain bottlenecks, cross-border shipment issues and government restrictions. Overall, the market grew as wind farm developers were in a hurry to get construction started in time to qualify for the production tax credit before its expected expiration at the end of the year.

In terms of supply and demand dynamics in the glass fiber industry, the utilization rate decreased to 83% in 2020 from 91% in 2019. The global glass fiber capacity was 12.8 billion pounds in 2020. (See Figure 1.) Lucintel predicts that the fiberglass plant capacity utilization rate in 2021 will reach the same level as 2019.

COVID-19 is forcing executives to rethink the future of the composites industry. In some segments, there is a surplus capacity added to the slow recovery. For example, the aerospace industry will see a slow recovery. Boeing CEO Dave Calhoun estimates it will take two to three years for air travel to recover to pre-COVID levels.

There is also growing consumer awareness about sustainability, which has led industry players to explore green materials, renewable energy and recycling technologies in the production of materials and composite parts. In addition, the increased use of digital technologies in most sectors is transforming work and the workforce.

With the help of a new stimulus package approved in December and arrival of the coronavirus vaccine, Lucintel is hopeful that Q1 and Q2 2021 will see good recovery in the U.S. glass fiber industry. Favorable trends in automotive, housing, pipe and tank, electrical and electronics, consumer goods and marine post-COVID crises will lead the glass fiber market to grow at 8% to 10% in 2021 to reach or exceed 2019 level demand.

The Automotive Market

By Marc Benevento, President, Industrial Market Insight

Last year brought significant change and disruption to many industries and aspects of life. The automotive and composites industries were no exception, and both have been dramatically impacted by COVID-19, the effects of which will be felt for years to come. However, there is good news for composite manufacturers in that the expected automotive industry recovery, global regulatory environment and proliferation of electrified vehicles provide a promising outlook for composites and lightweight automotive materials.

COVID-19-related shutdowns dramatically and negatively affected light vehicle supply and demand in 2020. Manufacturing shut-downs early in the year brought demand for materials to an abrupt halt, and the economic impacts of the pandemic reduced demand for new passenger vehicles globally. Although production resumed by summer and demand recovered more quickly than anticipated, global production in 2020 was 20% below that of the prior year. The volume of composites sold in automotive applications fell commensurately, to about 3.5 billion pounds.