The North American lightweight car market is estimated to be worth more than US$ 30 bn as of 2014, and is expected to be worth approximately US$ 33.9 bn by 2018.
There is a lot on demand from the next generation cars. Of these, connected cars, smart technology, fuel efficiency, and finally, a preference for light weight cars are foremost. During the e-car hype ending in 2011, one of the major focus areas was the weight of the car. However, over the succeeding years, car manufacturers have been lessening focus on integrating a decrease in weight of cars in new products, while there is a consistent demand for integration of decreased weight in new launches. Currently, the market for lightweight vehicles is largely driven by regulatory authorities pushing for fuel efficiency. The lightweight vehicles market in North America is driven by the increasingly strict fuel economy standards of the US CAFE requirements which are also being adopted by Canada and Mexico. The Corporate Average Fuel Economy (CAFE) law, instated in 1975, dictates that fuel economy for cars must improve from the current 27.5 mpg, where it has been since 1990, to 37.8 mpg by 2016. Combined, cars and trucks in 2016 should average 34.1 mpg, up 35 percent from the current 25.3 mpg.
The weight of a car depends on its curb-weight, or the mass of a vehicle, including mass of added components like refrigeration, passengers or cargo, transmission and motor oil, etc. The proliferation of lightweight cars is low because of a number of reasons, but is estimated to increase as awareness and demand for it increases. In fact, one of the most important drivers of lightweight cars in the market is the demand for it in terms of the ideal auto mobile, which, according to a report, should include for the components of increased efficiency, green fuel, and finally, lightweight materials, under the umbrella term “smart-efficiency”.
The ideal materials for lightweight cars in this market include aluminium, high strength steel and magnesium. In the luxury segment, carbon fibre cars, like the ones used in BMW, are no longer expensive, and are increasingly being used in mass market car production. The most popular material currently is “material-mix”, an innovative mix of materials to enable affordability of lightweight cars. The recent Global Automotive Lightweight Materials Initiative (GALM) has boosted the research and popularity of this material mix. Another method of decreasing the weight of cars is through downsizing engines.
Some of companies mentioned in the report working towards manufacturing and commercialization of such cars are BMW, Audi, Ford, LANXESS, Daimler and KIA.
High pressure from automotive regulatory authorities, increased demand in the North America (led by US), decreasing cost of materials through concentrated research and innovation, are some of the drivers of the North America lightweight cars market.
High cost of materials like carbon fibre, ongoing research on material mix leading to market non-readiness of this affordable material, decreasing focus on weight of vehicles since 2011, and other factors form the bottlenecks for this industry.
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