Far East Report

By Kin Ohmura, Far East Correspondent | November 11, 2011

Demands and trends of automotive ceilings in Japan

Automobile production in Japan has decreased significantly and this has impacted nonwovens’ role in interiors, particularly in the facing materials used in car roofs.

Car builds peaked in Japan in 2008 at 11.5 million but then dropped significantly to 7.9 million in 2009. While the market recovered somewhat in 2010, rising to 9.6 million, builds remain significantly behind 2008.

This lag has led to a decline in the use of nonwovens as facing materials used on the ceilings in automobile cabins. According to reports, the automotive industry in Japan used 34.7 million square meters in 2008, a figure which dropped to 24 million in 2009, recovering only to 29.1 million in 2010. Demand is on track to be light in 2011 as the automotive industry has been stalled by the earthquake disaster in March.

Nonwovens, tricot, PVC sheet and TPO sheets are all used for facing materials in automobile Ceilings. Nonwovens dominates this application, comprising about 68% of ceiling material while tricot represents 27% and the remaining hold a 5% share. Although the share of the tricot facing materials of the ceiling had risen in 2010, the materials are shifting from tricot to nonwovens now, and the share of the nonwovens is expected to increase during 2011-2012. However, increasing its marketshare will not be enough to compensate for the shrinking market, so the overall demand for nonwovens in this market is expected to decrease this year.

Manufacturers of nonwovens for ceilings
Otsuka, Japan Vilene, Suminoe Textile, Dynic, Kureha and Kanai Juyo Kogyo are the six companies that sell nonwovens for ceilings in Japan. Otsuka and Japan Vilene are the two major companies among them, and as for the marketshare, Otsuka takes 39% and Japan Vilene accounts for 35%, so these two companies controlled about three quarters of the entire market in 2010.

Otsuka has supplied nonwovens to auto manufacturers such as Toyota, Daihatsu, Honda and Nissan, and Japan Vilene has supplied them to Toyota, Nissan, Mitsubishi and Fuji. Since, the more adopted in many car models with much output, the more sales amount of nonwovens increases, an intense order battle has been developed and occasionally, fierce price competition could be seen.

The Japanese automotives market is increasing the use of lower priced compact cars which is creating an advantage for nonwovens because they are less expensive than tricot. This should give nonwovens an advantage when the automotives industry experiences a full recovery which is expected after 2012.

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