Teijin Ltd. (3401), the world’s second- largest carbon-fiber maker, expects sales of auto parts developed with a new technology to reach as much as 200 billion yen ($2.6 billion) by the end of this decade as manufacturers seek lighter components to build fuel-efficient vehicles.
“We hope it will be used widely and become the third material after steel and aluminum,” Yasunari Hotani, executive general manager in charge of carbon fiber at Toho Tenax Co., Teijin’s wholly-owned unit, said in an interview in Tokyo yesterday. The new technology hasn’t yet started contributing to sales, he said.
Teijin aims to supply carbon fiber-reinforced thermoplastic parts to one million cars a year by about 2020, Hotani said. Earlier this month, the Osaka-based company signed a pact with General Motors Co. (GM) to develop components using its technology that reduces molding time to enable mass production.
Bayerische Motoren Werke AG, Daimler AG and other automakers are also betting that carbon fiber will help them boost fuel efficiency and meet tighter environmental rules. Carmakers in the past avoided the material because the parts required drying times that weren’t compatible with the pace of assembly lines.
Teijin, whose customers include European Aeronautic Defence & Space Co. (EAD), the parent company of Airbus SAS, fell 2.1 percent to 234 yen as of 1:15 p.m. in Tokyo trading. The stock has lost 32 percent this year, compared with benchmark Nikkei 225 Stock Average’s 18 percent drop.
Hockey Sticks, Cellos
Carbon fiber, also used in hockey sticks, cellos and fishing rods, is 10 times stronger than steel, according to Toho Tenax. The company’s new technology will cut cycle times for molding parts to under a minute, compared with the average of 10 minutes needed with conventional methods.
Teijin is also setting up a factory in Ehime Prefecture that uses the new mass production technology. The plant may begin operations by mid-2012, the company said in November. Its bigger rival Toray Industries Inc. (3402) counts Boeing Co. and EADS among its carbon-fiber customers.
“High performance fibers”, including carbon fiber, generated 103.4 billion yen in sales for Teijin in the year ended March 31, about 13 percent of the company’s total revenue.