The Society of Plastics Engineers launched the Automotive Innovation awards in 1971, recognizing breakthrough uses of plastics in the auto industry.
One consistent rule throughout the process has been that the part had to be on a production car, not just a concept — even if it was a low production niche vehicle.
By the time Plastics News began publishing in 1989, SPE had already honor composite exterior body panels, tailgate assembly parts, rear quarter windows, instrument panels and radiator fan shrouds.
The awards process recognizes parts in a series of categories, including exteriors, interiors, powertrain and safety, then the grand award winner is picked from among those category winners by judges from the auto industry, research and the media.
So to get an idea of what's happened in the industry, lets survey past grand award winners.