Akron, Ohio — Vinyl and polyurethane materials are growing in automotive seating interior surfaces uses, taking over as leather declines, according to Shiwei William Guan of CGT Ltd.
"Now we can make PVC look the same as genuine leather. We can make PVC stronger than leather," Guan said in a presentation at Vinyltec in Akron, sponsored by the Society of Plastics Engineers' vinyl plastics division and the Akron section, Oct. 2-3.
PVC is still the dominant material for instrument panels and door panels, but thermoplastic polyolefins are gaining ground, he said.
Guan is vice president of global innovations for CGT Ltd., a Cambridge, Ontario-based maker of commercial and industrial coatings.
"The genuine virgin kind of materials are losing their momentum, and more and more synthetic leathers are being used in this particular market," Guan said at Vinyltec.
PVC costs less and is growing faster than other materials, Guan said. "PVC is recognized by industry as an economical, and also capable, product for the automotive interior parts coverstock," he said.
Guan said PVC automotive interiors do face some challenges, most importantly regulations in volatile organic compounds, odors and fogging. China actually has the toughest regulations, followed by Europe, he said. The United States is the country least concerned about the issues of VOCs and odors.
Another challenge for vinyl: becoming "green" and reducing the material's carbon footprint.
Social pressures are also playing a part because younger people tend to like lighter colors, such as off-whites, for vehicle interiors, instead of the standard black and gray. The means interior capstock makers will have to produce white colors that also have stain resistance, a technological feat, he said.
Another trend, toward ride-sharing, places demands on anti-wear and anti-microbial features, Guan said.