logo

China automakers, suppliers form a lightweight alliance

By: Steve Toloken

December 10, 2012

A group of global resin suppliers and Chinese automobile companies have formed a technology alliance to increase the amount of plastic used in the country’s cars, close the sizable gap with global auto companies and boost fuel efficiency of domestic vehicles.

The International Auto Lightweight Technology Alliance, announced Nov. 28 at a conference in Hebei province, includes global plastics raw material makers Rhodia SA, DSM NV and Arkema SA, along with large domestic Chinese car makers Chang’an Automobile Group Co. Ltd., Geely Holding Group Co. Ltd. and Beiqi Foton Motor Co. Ltd.

The alliance’s detailed agenda is still being worked out, but with Chinese economy cars using only about 110 pounds of plastic parts on average, compared with 286 to 296 pounds per vehicle in the United States, Western Europe and Japan, the participants see a lot of opportunities.

Members of the group acknowledge they have some challenges ahead of them, including recruiting more Tier 1 automotive components makers, who are not present in large numbers among the more than 20 founding companies and organizations.

The alliance is being organized by the Shanghai-based Sino-European Union Chemical Manufacturers Association, and its Auto Plastic and Innovative Materials Committee, which will provide administrative support.

The alliance wants to bring together six key groups in China’s auto industry — the car makers, the auto-parts and components manufacturers, materials suppliers, government agencies, associations and universities, said Cao Du, chairman of the alliance and vice president of the Chang’an Auto Global R&D Center in Chongqing, China. Chang’an is a unit of major Chinese automaker Chang’an Automobile Group Co. Ltd.

In particular, he said automakers and materials suppliers in China don’t know much about each other’s capabilities and needs.

Cao is also vice chairman of the APIMC, and he spoke in an interview at the 6th International Auto Plastics and Innovative Materials Development Forum, held Nov. 28-29 in Cangzhou. APIMC organized the conference.

APIMC Chairman Jean-Claude Steinmetz, vice president of automotive for French resin supplier Rhodia SA, said the alliance can initially identify a handful of key demonstration projects to focus on that would involve Chinese car makers, Tier 1 firms and raw materials suppliers.

“Out of the discussion the last two days, we really have to pinpoint down the key deliverables for the next six months on definite projects,” he said in an interview at the forum.