Sunday, October 10, 2010

No. 176: Carbon fibers for the autobody of production vehicles (October 11, 2010)

Toray Industries, leader of the world carbon fiber market, will start to ship carbon fibers to Toyota and Fuji Heavy for their production vehicles. No Japanese production vehicles have ever employed carbon fibers for the autobody. Toyota will employ carbon fibers to the hood and roof of its luxury sports car Lexus LFA scheduled for production coming December. Toyota is diversifying materials for its cars from two viewpoints of weight saving and environment measures. It has already employed polycarbonate resin for the window and plans to increase the ratio of carbon fiber judging from cost effectiveness and craft-friendliness. Fuji Heavy will start to sell carbon fiber roofs as the option part for its sporty cars. Toray established the new manufacturing technology that can halve the mold cost in shaping carbon fiber. Carbon fiber is more than 20 times as more expensive as steel, but the new technology successfully reduced the difference to five times. As steel plate is growing higher in price, the cost difference between steel plate and carbon fiber is growing smaller. Vehicles currently account for less than 1% of carbon fiber shipments, but a new market of 30,000 tons, which is equivalent to the present total demand for carbon fiber, will be created if the application of carbon fibers to the autobody grows widespread. Three Japanese companies have a combined share of 73% in the world market. Toray is the leader with a 34% share, followed by Mitsubishi Rayon with a 20% share and Toho Tenax with a 19% share.
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