“We're optimistic about 2015, but not equally in every market,” Senior Vice President Juan Carlos Ordonez said in a news conference at NPE 2015 in Orlando. “We're more positive in automotive, which surprised us again in growth [in 2014].
“We've also got good expectations in consumer and industrial, but less so in construction,” he added. “Commercial construction is positive in hotels and restaurants, but not residential.”
Lower oil and gasoline prices have had a mixed impact on BASF's business, according to Ordonez.
“When you talk to customers, you hear multiple stories,” he said. “Some of them think [material] prices will automatically go down, but you have inventories and other factors to consider.
“Establishing price is strategic, but you have to guess where oil is going. And when things are bumpy like they are now, there's a good chance to be wrong,” Ordonez said.
“We follow the market closely and try to buy at the best price,” Ordonez added. “But in turbulent times, I've learned it's best to shut your mouth.”
North America generates 20 percent of sales and profit for the performance materials unit. The unit has 100 manufacturing plants and 27 research and development sites in North America. Its R&D sites employ 1,850.
Also at the NPE event, BASF highlighted results of its Ultrasim simulation software, which has 90 to 95 percent accuracy in predicting the performance of parts using BASF materials, according to technical development director Mark Minnichelli. He cited three recent successful uses of Ultrasim using Ultramid-brand nylon 6.
Bemis Manufacturing Co. used Ultramid nylon in its Innova shopping cart design for Target Corp. The cart has an HDPE basket over a nylon 6 structure. It has twice the durability of steel models and is 100 percent recyclable, Minnichelli said.
Faurecia used Ultrasim to design a lightweight auto seatback. The product provides 30 to 40 percent mass savings by using a glass-filled Ultramid grade, reducing part weight by 6 pounds per vehicle.
A solar panel mount made by Solega provided weight reduction of almost 4 pounds, according to Minnichelli. The mount keeps solar photovoltaic panels in place and can withstand greater loads by using a glass-filled Ultramid, he added.
BASF is based in Ludwigshafen, Germany, with North American headquarters in Florham Park, N.J. The firm posted sales of $83.2 billion in 2014, up almost 1 percent vs. 2013.