Novi, Mich. — The global auto market is changing rapidly as it races toward a goal of carbon neutrality, and plastics will be an important part of the effort.
That's according to speakers at an automotive conference organized by injection molding machinery maker Engel Group, held June 2 in Novi.
Speakers talked about how electric vehicles are rapidly gaining market share, and how that will impact the plastics supply chain.
Hinrich Woebcken, currently a venture partner with Blue Lagoon Capital and the former president and CEO of Volkswagen Group of America Inc., said the global auto market has reached a tipping point, and he urged plastics companies to go all-in on EVs.
"I see it from the investor side. I'm working a lot with private equity. And the big dollars, the big investment money, are really more and more channeled only into companies into investments where the management the technology stands behind sustainability," Woebcken said.
He cited several examples of ways plastics can help EV OEMs, including new exterior lighting concepts that will replace front grilles.
"What I see is an opportunity for the people in this room," he said.
Woebcken also made a pitch for working with new automakers.
"I am so stunned how different and how [much] faster these [companies] are bringing products to the market, of course, with a lot of stumbling blocks and going through tough times. But the way they collaborate with the suppliers was, for me, a big eye-opener," he said.
Most traditional OEMs keep suppliers at arms' length to some degree, but new automakers are "totally different," he said.
"And I can really compare, because I lived many years in this old world and the legacy world and I'm part of many journeys in the new world. And this is an opportunity for the injection molding and the plastics industry. … Even their volume is still small, you should take them really seriously because they open up a new opportunity and they will grow," said Woebcken, who started his career at a German injection press maker before he worked for Volkswagen.
Kevin Riddell, senior manager of powertrain forecasts at LMC Automotive, said there are about 60 EV nameplates in the U.S. market now, but his firm expects there to be about 300 different brands on sale by 2030.
By volume, currently most EVs sold in the United States are domestic models, largely because of the head start that Tesla has over its competition. But the number of imports will grow rapidly, Riddell said.
The compound annual growth rate for EVs in the U.S. between 2021 and 2030 will be 35 percent, he said, emphasizing that the market is growing faster than the 29 percent CAGR in Europe and 18 percent in China.