Wires and cables are indispensible components of the modern automotive industry. Wires and cables are used virtually in all applications in a vehicle. Engine, transmission, braking, lights, air conditioners, seat heaters and various dashboard applications such as speedometer and fuel meter, all require wires and cables to function. Cables are generally considered to be a collection of individually insulated wires in a twisted form, jacketed together. However, there are no clear demarcations where a wire transforms to cable in the automotive industry. An 8AWG is often considered a wire, whereas a 6AWG (larger cross-section) might be referred to as a cable. Applications of cables and wires in automotives have increased exponentially with time, with the advancement of new technologies and customer aspirations.
The automotive wire and cable materials market is directly influenced by the automotive demand. The market is driven by the high demand for personal vehicles and commercial vehicles in Asia Pacific market as well as the gradually reviving U.S. economy. Moreover new technologies and innovative applications in vehicles have lead to the utilization of more wire and cable materials per car. The U.S. government initiative to promote electric and hybrid vehicles is also expected to boost demand for automotive wire and cable materials as the consumption of wires is slightly more in a similar sized electric vehicle compared to a vehicle running on conventional petroleum fuel.
The automotive wire and cable materials could be segregated into PVC, XLPE, TPU, PPE and other materials such as silicone and EBR by product types. PVC and XLPE wire and cable insulation materials are the most used product types owing to their favorable physical characteristics and applicability over a wide temperature range. However some OEMs such as General Motors have phased out the usage of PVC materials in their cars due to the toxic effects of PVC and recyclability issues. Although PVC insulated wire and cable are still used, its popularity has decreased paving way for other insulating materials such as XLPE and PPE. Introduction and commercialization of bio based plasticizers for the manufacturing of PVC is an opportunity for PVC, as PVC manufactured using bio plasticizers are expected to be up to 40% less toxic than those manufactured using phthalates.
Asia Pacific is by far the largest consumer of automotive wire and cable materials in the world. The ever increasing demand for personal vehicles and commercial vehicles in Asia Pacific is due to the high GDP growth coupled with increasing purchasing power in countries such as China, India, Malaysia and Indonesia. North America is the second largest consumer of automotive wire and cable materials in the world followed by Europe. Although most of the reputed automotive manufacturers are Europe based, the demand for their vehicles is mostly generated from other geographies, particularly Asia Pacific.
The global automotive wire and cable materials market is highly consolidated with the top 5 companies accounting for over 60% market share. Most of the large players in this market are based in Asia and are expanding rapidly in this region to cater to the huge demand expected from this region. Some of the major companies dominating the market are Sumitomo Electric Industry, Yazaki Corporation, Leoni AG, Coficab Tunisie SA and Lear Corporation. Wire and cable manufacturers and wiring harness manufacturers are often different and occupy different positions in the value chain, however in most times the operations are integrated.