Selections in PU and other polymers are expanding as light weight remains a key R&D target.
China suppliers of body kits, grille guards and racks are introducing more plastic models rather than metal types. The former is lighter than steel and aluminum versions, a major advantage amid fuel efficiency concerns. It also allows for greater design flexibility, enabling makers to contour exterior accessories for various applications.
PU is a popular choice for body kits because of its strength and durability, with even major companies such as BMW and Mercedes-Benz now using the material. A key advantage of the plastic is that it can withstand temperatures ranging from -40 to 80 C. In addition, it is resistant to abrasion, oils, solvents, UV rays and other environmental elements.
Shenzhen Xingdacheng Enterprise Co. Ltd offers exterior modifications made of PU from South Korea and Germany. Among these are bumper lips for the BMW E90 series, Subaru Impreza and Honda Civic.
At Auto Parts Tech (Hong Kong) Ltd, roof boxes are manufactured from special composite plastic board. A recyclable material, SPCB is also light and durable. It is UV- and scratch-resistant, suitable for harsh environments.
By following the trend for lightweight models, suppliers hope to fortify their foothold both in the aftermarket and OE segments. This is particularly true for those exploring growth opportunities within China, which is now the largest vehicle market in the world.
Overseas, several companies are planning to enter or boost deliveries to the Middle East. Those getting stable orders from the US are considering shipping to Canada and Mexico.
To ensure designs are up-to-date with the latest vehicle releases and trends in their chosen markets, suppliers invest in an in-house team for R&D. At interviewed companies, these groups include at least 10 engineers. Annual allocations for product development and related tasks range from $150,000 to $1 million or more.
In addition, midsize and large makers have installed automated production equipment such as CNC machines and mechanical welting arms in their factories. Their plants also house facilities for testing key performance parameters, including hardness and resistance to impact and corrosion.
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