Automotive carpeting typically comes in two types—needlepunched and tufted—and nonwovens are used as afoundation in tufted piles. One kind of tuft pile is a carpet molded on the entire floor of the car and another is a mat style, which is laid on the floor of the car. Since the carpets of the cars must be molded according to the shape of the car, these materials demand high plasticity. On the other hand, mats do not face this type of demand because they are cut in a certain shape and only partially cover the car floor.
The demand for tufted pile in the automotive market last year was estimated at 10 million square meters, which was used for carpeting covering the entire car floor. Of this, seven million square meters were consumed in Japan and three million we re exported. The demand for mats was estimated at eight million square meters, or 4.6 million square meters for domestic and 3.4 million square meters for international. Although the Japanese automotive output has been increasing and the demand for needlepunched materials is increasing as well, demand for tufted plie has leveled off because of low sales of cars in Japan. This is particularly true with mats as nearly 100% of mats are made from tufted piles; needlepunched material is hardly ever used.
Polyester spunbond nonwovens are used asfoundation cloths in the tufted piles of automotives. Although first and second foundation cloths have been used for floor carpets, there are many productsbeing offered recently without the second foundation cloth. Today, only the first foundation cloth is used for mats. In terms of density of the foundation cloths, about 100 gpsm for the first one and 25 gpsm for the second are typical weights.
The total demand for foundation cloths of carpets and mats was estimated to be about 16 million square meters in 2006. Unitika, Toyobo and Japan Lutravil sell the PET spunbonded nonwovens and nearly 100% of total supply has come from these three companies. Sales ratios of these three suppliers are similar and the market is shared equally by the three. Unitika and Toyobo produce inlay for the first foundation cloths in carpets that demand plasticity and Japan Lutravil’s products are mostly used for mats. Although PET spunbond nonwovens have been sold by Toray before, the company has exited this field and the channel of supply for the carpet markets was handed over to Japan Lutravil. The three companies are competing for sales of tufted pile foundation cloths for cars. The steady supply of these three companies is expected to continue in the future without serious fluctuations as to the amount of the sales of each company.