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Since 1996 the nova-Institut has been surveying data on the use of natural fibres in German automotive production, just updated with data from 2004 and 2005.
As in previous years, most of the data was drawn from active suppliers in Germany, with additional exemplary interviews of employees of automotive OEMs, mat producers, machine manufacturers and raw material suppliers. The results of the survey have now been published an show only weakened growth in the past two years, with the appearance of new production processes.
In 2005, for the first time 19,000 t of natural fibres (without wood and cotton) were used in automotive composites. At the same time the shares of natural fibres used have changed. While exotic natural fibres – jute, kenaf, sisal, coir and abaca – increased substantially between 2000 and 2004, both on a percentage basis and absolutely, there has been a stagnation since then.
This is directly linked to the prices of European flax fibres that were quite high in the same period and have been decreasing again as recently as 2004; simultaneously in recent years there were significant price increases for jute and kenaf on the world market. Accordingly flax has been able to expand its market position again in the 2004 and 2005. The shares of hemp are mainly determined by the short supply; due to the failure of a large producer, their use decreased in 2004 and is now recovering again.
Prospects for future development
Regarding future market development of natural fibre reinforced composites, there presently isn’t any clear trend, and estimates are wide apart within the automotive branch. There is belief on the one hand that natural fibres have already passed their peak and their applications will decrease, and on the other that there is a stabilisation with a (slight) market growth and interesting potentials in the medium term.
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