Nylon resins are expected to be in adequate supply for the next several years, and producers appear ready to duke it out over customers. DuPont Co., AlliedSignal Plastics and Monsanto Chemical Co. all have launched expansion programs that nearly will double their production capacities, while BASF, DSM Polymers and Hoechst Celanese Corp. are looking to build their market shares in North America.
Meanwhile, growth in demand appears to be relying critically on the auto industry.
One of the fastest-growing applications for nylon is automotive air-intake manifolds, to which North American automakers are converting at breakneck speeds.
If North American auto-makers build 15.3 million vehicles in 1996, as they are predicting, it will be a very good year for nylon resin producers, said Eric Fyrwald, manager of DuPont's nylon resins business.
If automakers build 14.7 million vehicles in 1996, as the University of Michigan's Center for the Study of Automotive Transportation is predicting, nylon resin makers will have a good year of growth, but not quite as healthy.
Demand for nylon grew nearly 14 percent in 1994, but fell to an anemic 5 percent in 1995 with the inventory adjustment many processors went through.
Demand in North America in 1996 could grow as fast as 8-10 percent or as slow as 3-4 percent, depending on the kind of year the Big Three have.
With that varied an outlook and with huge production expansions looming, nylon marketing executives are coy about predictions and hedge about forecasting supplies and prices for nylon resins for the year.
Executives at AlliedSignal grant that they are predicting ``double-digit growth'' for 1996. When pressed, they narrow that prediction down to something less than 50 percent.
AlliedSignal has reorganized itself and is competing aggressively in new markets with new products. The reorganization includes a new thrust into the auto industry, a market that it intends to address differently than it has in the past, said David J. Homyak, the firms new global industry manager for automotive applications.
Fyrwald said by telephone he is not concerned about the availability of nylon resins or increased competition, but he is concerned about availability of glass-fiber reinforcements, which nylon resin makers will need to produce parts the auto industry might want.