Plastics in Auto Interiors

Published - Aug 2000| Analyst - Melvin Schlechter| Code - PLS021A
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Report Highlights

  • The auto interior market is one of intense competition because most of the metal replacement with resins has essentially been completed. This scenario is compounded by the fact that vehicle sales have been flat for several years and many forecasts predict a slight decline over the next few years. However, minivans, with concomitant larger resin/elastomer volumes, and other factors provide reasonably good material growth rates over the next 5 years.
  • The auto interior industry is being confronted by a wide array of challenges that bear directly on resin/elastomer selection. Some of these include: changing aerodynamics, more demanding resin property profiles, more stringent federal regulations, proliferation of the modular concept, the ever-present anti-PVC scenario, spectre of recycling, and the constant goal to reduce prices.
  • Several groups of resins/elastomers compete in this market which is composed of the following components: seating, instrument panels (including hard surfaces, skins, cushioning, and air bag covers/doors), window encapsulants and weather stripping, interior trim, door panels, and others.


The objective of this study is to provide an analysis of resins and elastomer use in auto interiors.


Although most of the conversion from metals and other materials to plastics and elastomers in auto interiors has been completed, competition among these materials has intensified. The battleground is led by instrument panel usage, and also includes seating, door trim/panels, interior trim, window gasketing/weather stripping, air bags, headliners and many other applications.

This scenario needs to be evaluated, especially in view of the move toward modular construction, the ever-present anti-PVC campaign, increased auto interior temperatures, continuing price pressures and the recycling issue. There is a great deal at stake in this market.


This report covers usage of thermosets, commodity thermoplastics, styrenics, engineering resins, alloys/blends, EPDM, and TPEs in auto interiors. A major focus of this report is a quantitative analysis of the current and forecast competitive scenario for each resin/elastomer in each of the major auto interior applications. The most intense head-to-head competition exists between ABS, polypropylene and TPOs.


A comprehensive review and analysis was undertaken of literature related to auto interiors in terms of materials, applications, markets, technology, and new developments through 1999 and into the first quarter of 2000. Unresolved issues were clarified by contact with those involved in the industry.


The following acronyms were used throughout the report to ease its reading:

ABS - acrylonitrile-butadiene-styrene
BMC - bulk molding compound
CFC - chlorofluorocarbon
COPEs - copolyester TPEs
HDT - heat deflection temperature
EPDM - ethylene propylene diene monomer
ETPs - engineering thermoplastics
FMVSS - Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standards
HCPP- high-crystalline polypropylene
HDPE - high-density polyethylene
HCFC - hydrochlorofluorocarbon
IPs - instrument panels
MA - maleic anhydride
MDI - diphenylmethane diisocyanate
NHTSA - National Highway Traffic Safety Administration
NVH - noise-vibration-hardness
OSHA - Occupational Safety and Health Administration
PC/ABS - polycarbonate-ABS alloy/blend
PP - polypropylene
PPO - polyphenylene oxide
PPO/HIPS - PPO-high-impact polystyrene alloy/blend
PPO/nylon - PPO-nylon alloy/blend
PUR - polyurethane
PVC - polyvinyl chloride
RIM - reaction injection molded
SAN - styrene acrylonitrile
SMA - styrene maleic anhydride
SMC - sheet molding compound
SRIM - structural RIM
TDI - toluene diisocyanate
TPEs - thermoplastic elastomers
TPOs - thermoplastic olefins
TPUs - thermoplastic urethanes
TPVs -thermoplastic vulcanizates (TPO variant)
TSPE - thermoset polyester
UP resins - unsaturated polyester
VOCs - volatile organic compounds

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