Textiles Applications in Automotive Industry

With the rising level of automobile production and its corresponding worldwide stocks based on the rapid industrialisation in Asia, Africa and Latin America plus the rising demand in Eastern Europe, the proportion of textiles in a motor car is increasing in response to more stringent comfort and safety needs in industrialised countries like the USA, Japan and Western Europe.

Automobile textiles, which are non apparel textiles, are widely used in vehicles like cars, trains, buses, aircraft and marine vehicles. Hence, the term automobile textile means all type of textile components e.g. fibers, filaments, yarns and the fabric used in automobiles.

Nearly two third of the automobile textiles are for interior trim, i.e. seat cover, carpets and roof and door liners. The rest is utilized to reinforce tyres, hoses, safety belts, air bags, etc.

It is projected that nearly 45 square meters of textile material is utilized in a car for interior trim (seating area, headlines, side panel, carpet and trunk). According to a survey, the percentage of textile in a motor car amounts to 2 per cent of the overall weight of a car. Apart from this, visible textile components, eliminating hidden components such as in tyres and composites, hoses and filters; amount to 10-11 kg per vehicle in absolute terms. Industrial textiles are largely utilized in vehicles and systems including cars, buses, trains, air crafts and marine vehicles. In automobile textile industry, four types of fabrics are used, namely:

. Air bag fabrics

. Fabric used as a basis for reduction in weight of body parts

. Tyre cord fabrics

. Automotive upholstery and other textile fabrics used inside the vehicle

The airbag and seat belts used as safety measures are one of the latest types of textiles in automobiles and have a potential market for technical textiles that has a considerable scope for growth and development. Because of government legislation and consumer interest, the applications have been extremely successful over the last ten to fifteen years.

In the last decade, airbags or inflatable restraints have received noteworthy significance as a safeguard for the driver and the passengers in case of an accident. Initially, the bags were made for head-on collision, but now, there are many other safety devices like side impact bags, knee bolsters, side curtain, etc, available for safety in any type of crash. Because frontal collisions are a main reason of accidental deaths, airbags are being presented as a standard product in vehicles by legislation, which has given the quick increment of airbags business in the last decade. NHTSA and HHS report that airbag systems have played an important role in saving thousands of lives since 1985. In 2002 alone, due to the airbag system a 20 per cent reduction in fatalities resulting from fatal collisions has been observed.

In 1999, there were 55 million vehicles with 81 million airbags. In 2004, the number of frontal airbag units was nearly 100 million and the number of side-impact airbags nearly 65 million. In the same year, nearly 23 per cent of the new vehicles in North America had side airbags for chest protection and 17 per cent had side airbags for head protection. By 2005, this has increased to 180 million airbags and 65 million vehicles.

Fabric application demand has increased to 325 million square meters in 2005, and 83 tons of fibre, mostly nylon has been used.

The world airbag market is estimated to rise from 66 million units in 1996 to over 200 million units in 2006, a compound annual growth rate of 12 per cent. Over this decade, Europe will put in 60 million units, Asia-Pacific 30 million units and North America 24 million units.

While North American and Western European markets are growing, considerable development is also seen in the international market. As new applications are developing for airbags, including rear seat bags, inflatable seat belts and an outside airbag system for pedestrians, new fabrics and combinations are being applied. The front and passenger bags have different requirements because of the distance from the occupant, but they both have rapid increment and deflation in a very short time span.

Rollover bags must remain inflated for five seconds. In addition to new uses, expected trends include lighter fabric for use with newer “cold inflators,” blended with materials like fabric and film, new coating polymers (Silicone now dominates having replaced neoprene).

Growth of safety devices in the car interior

Increasing electronics and safety devices require more space in the interior together with new concepts for arrangement.

Worldwide market for PA airbag yarns

The fibre manufacturer Accordis Industrial Fibres BV, Arnhem/ Netherlands reported that the global market for PA airbag was 84,000 tons in 2005.


Airbags were first introduced in the late 1960s, but it is only in the 1990s that their use increased amazingly and it is set to grow further. This validates the research and development still being made on design, deployment and base fabric material.

The prospects for the textile and making-up indus¬tries are huge in the area of airbag production. This is due to its large requirement particularly in view of the legislation, which is already imposed by many countries.

Around 1.42 meter2 of fabric is required to produce driver¬ side airbags on light trucks. This estimation gives the idea that the airbag market is of great importance for the use of technical textiles. Airbags are normally made by coated or uncoated fabrics of PA 6.6 yarns with lesser air permeability.

A fabric cushion is included as a part of textile ingredient for an airbag, which is folded into the center of the steering wheel (for the driver) or in the glove compartment (for the front seat passenger). Generally, the bag is woven by nylon 6, 6 filament yarns, which are in demand in huge quantities because of their high strength-to-weight ratio, favorable elongation, adequate thermal properties and relatively low cost of production. Other properties required are high tear strength, high anti-seam slippage, controlled air permeability and be capable for being folded into confined places for over ten years without deterioration.


A triggering device sets-off explosive chemicals when it senses an accident above 35 km/h is about to occur. These chemicals hold back and cushion the car occupant from collision with harder objects. The fabric from which the bag is made must be competent for withstanding the strength of the propellant chemicals. More over, the hot gases must not penetrate the fabric and burn the skin of the car occupant.

For airbags to perform their protective function, each function in the system must work with reliability and predictability. In frontal airbag initiation, the cushion begins to deploy within 20 ms after collision and is fully set up in 50 ms. Within this period of time, the bag has to spread through the plastic cover, blown up and fill the space between the dashboard and occupant.

Material applications

Airbags are generally made from high tenacity multifilament nylon 6, 6 in yarn quality fineness from 210, 420 to 840 denier, although some polyester and even some nylon 6 is utilized. As Nylon 6 is softer, it is used to lessen skin abrasion. Airbag fabric is not dyed, but has to be scoured to eliminate impure substances, which could encourage mildew or other problems. Airbags are created in compact size, plain woven fabrics.

The amount of fabric required to make an airbag depends on its location in the car and the market it serves. The fabrics utilized to produce a driver’s and a passenger’s airbag are quiet different. Most drivers’ side airbags are coated by using lower denier yarns that give strong and light-weight fabrics. The looser weave has been permitted by stronger nylon 6, 6 yarns that create fabrics with lighter weight, less stiffness and better packagabiIity.

The fabric which is used to produce passenger airbags is generally uncoated. These kinds of passenger bags are larger so they create lower gas pressures, have longer inflation times, and possess gas which is cooler. The constituent yarns are of relatively heavy denier. Normally, airbag fabrics are made by rapier weaving machines or air jet looms with electronic dobbies.

Airbag fabrics varieties

The earliest airbags were Neoprene coated and woven Nylon 6, 6, but later lighter and thinner silicone coated versions followed. Afterwards, though, uncoated fabrics have emerged. The majority of these fabrics are coated with an elastomeric material such as neoprene or silicone. The long lasting popularity of coated materials for airbags has been seen because of its capability to work as a heat shield and the comparative ease that design engineers can expect wider performance in their use.

Though, there are some intrinsic problems with coated airbags, which cover their large thickness, incapability to be folded into small spaces and inclination of decay over time. Coated fab¬rics are simple to cut and sew and the air porosity can be well managed.

The drawbacks linked with coated airbags and their subsequent substitution with uncoated materials has warranted significant developments from two sectors of the industry. The uncoated airbags can be recycled in a simple manner. The first development has come from the yarn and fabric producers, who have concurrently developed the performance of the fabrics. Their gas permeability has fallen under specific scrutiny since the way an uncoated fabric discharges gas and establishes the capability of an airbag to resist impact. The second development has gained from the inflator producers, who have started to substitute the original inflators, which release air, with devices that emit air like argon and helium. This is greatly helpful because these gases are equally as effective at lower temperatures and discharge less hot particles.

Finishing procedure of airbag fabrics

After weaving, the airbag fabric is scouring to reduce size. To gain accurate air permeability, the airbag fabric can be calendered. Apart from influencing the air permeability by weaving and finishing, accurate permeability control can be achieved by coating. When the airbag material has been finished, it is sewn together; the best practice is by using it with a laser.

Airbags are sewn with Nylon 6, 6, polyester, and Kevlar aramid yarns, the sewing patterns and densities being selected to maximize performance. When a bag is sewn it is folded inside its cover. Packing should permit for tethers connected to the bag to manage operation. Finally, a cover can be set up over the bag to safeguard it from abrasion.

Airbag sizes

Airbags are available in various sizes and configurations depending on the type of car and steering. Moreover, the driver’s side airbag is smaller than the front passengers by about 65 liters capacity upwards.


In airbag systems, there are mainly five suppliers of the airbag module itself, representing 32 per cent of the value of the airbag system. The key airbag control unit has four suppliers representing 24 per cent of the value, and the seat belt portion of the system has two suppliers with a 31 per cent contribution. Yet, the remaining part with only 13 per cent of the value of the airbag system has over 40 suppliers.

Two years back INVISTA, formerly DuPont Textiles & Interiors, had expanded nylon 6, 6 fiber production capacity, totaling 7.5 kilotons (kt.) at two facilities; one in Qing Dao, China, and the second in Gloucester, UK.

A wide range of highly specialized polyamide 6.6 airbag yarns, Enka Nylon, are made by Polymide High Performance at its Obernburg (Germany) and Scottsboro (Alabama/USA) plants.

Zapata Corporation in December, 2005 announced that it completed the sale of all of its 4,162,394 shares of Safety Components International, Inc. to private equity investor Wilbur L. Ross, Jr. for nearly $51.2 million. Zapata’s stake stands for nearly 77.3 per cent of Safety Components’ total outstanding common stock. Safety Components is an independent producer of air bags and the company’s fabrics are largely utilized for automobile safety air bags and in niche industrial and commercial applications. Safety Components headquartered in Greenville, South Carolina, has plants situated in North America, Europe, China and South Africa.

Takata is a manufacturer of automotive seatbelts. Takata started researching seatbelt technologies in 1952. After eight years of research and development Takata became the first safety company to offer seatbelts as standard equipment to the Japan market in 1960. In the early 1970’s, Takata worked with NHTSA to satisfy new high speed crash test requirements and supplied the first energy absorbing seat belt system to pass a 30 mph crash test. Irvin Automotive is another company within the Takata Corporation. Irvin makes armrests, cargo covers, molded consoles, seat covers and sun visors.

Narricot Industries, LP, located in Southampton, Pennsylvania, is a producer of woven narrow fabrics in North America. With manufacturing facilities in Boykins and South Hill, Virginia, Narricot is the number one supplier of seatbelt webbing to the North American automotive industry.

Autoliv is a manufacturer of airbag, seatbelts and other automotive safety devices. Autoliv has nearly 80 wholly or partially owned manufacturing facilities in 30 vehicle-producing countries. Autoliv and its joint ventures and licensees make over 80 million seat belt systems annually.

Toray Industries, Inc, that makes nylon 6, 6 fiber and textile for use in automobile air bags, plans to start manufacturing base fabric for automotive airbags at its Czech textile subsidiary in January 2006. The company plans to invest in the necessary equipment to its subsidiary Toray Textiles Central Europe. The production output is projected at 600,000 meters in 2006 and 4 million meters in 2010. At present, Toray makes the fabric in Japan, Thailand and China mainly for airbags used in Japanese cars.

Performance tests and standards

Many individual tests carried out with airbag yarns and fabrics is said to number over 50. The ASTM, the SAE and the Automotive Occupant Res¬traint Council (AORC) have established various standards that express appropriate tests for airbags.

Seat belts

The seat belt is an energy absorbing device that is designed to keep the load imposed on a victim’s body during a crash down to survivable limits. Basically, it is designed to offer non recoverable extension to decrease the deceleration forces that the body comes across in a crash. Non recoverable extension is significant to prevent the occupants from being restrained into their seats and sustaining whiplash injuries right away after a collision. To prevent more webbing from paying out after an accident, the automatic belt has a locking device known as inertia reel. An efficient seat belt will only permit its wearer to move forward a maximum of about 30 cm to avoid contact with any fixed parts of the car.

It is believed that the seat belts were invented concurrently in America as well as Sweden. The only difference was that the American belt was a strap to encircle the waist and the Swedish belt was a diagonal band made to defend the upper body. Now, a blend of the two designs is a most prevalent arrangement and is called the 3-point belt, which is secured by two fittings on the floor and a third on the sidewall or pillar. Racing drivers wear other patterns, particularly two shoulder straps and a lap belt. The earliest automotive seat belts were set up and were adjustable so that they could fit the wearer manually. The automatic belt superseded this pattern by providing the wearer more space to move.

Seat belts are available in multiple layers and are woven in narrow fabrics in twill or satin fabrication from high tenacity polyester yarns, generally 320 ends of 1100 dtex or 260 ends of 1670 dtex yarn. These structures permit highest yarn packing within a given area for highest strength and the trend is to utilize coarser yarns for good abrasion resistance. For ease they require to be softer and more flexible along the length, but rigidity is needed along the width to facilitate them to slide easily between buckles and retract smoothly into housings. Edges require being scuff resistant, but not disagreeably rigid and the fabric must be resistant to microorganisms. Nylon was utilized in some early seat belts, but due to of its higher UV degradation resistance; polyester is now widely used worldwide.

Performance standards

Normally, the performance standards require a seat belt to restrain a passenger weighing 90 kg involved in a collision at 50 km/h (about 30 mph) into a fixed object. Straight pull tensile strength should be at least 30 KN/50 mm. Other tests include accelerated ageing and in the made-up form, resistance to fastening and unfastening 10,000 times. The seat belt must be long lasting without any significant deterioration. In many cars, after ensuring the inclusion of the airbag, efforts have been made to link the function of the two devices (seat belt and airbag).


No doubt that the airbags help to save lives, but at times they can also be a source of serious injury. The search for a uniform smart airbag, which can perceive the size of the passenger or whether the seat is empty and react in that manner, is in progress. Such a ‘smart’ airbag will incorporate sensors to judge the weight, size and location of the car passengers and hence deploy more appropriately.

In addition, incorporated safety devices associated with the seat belt along with other safety items, particularly for child passengers, are under development. The trend towards uncoated fabrics is anticipated to continue and so is the improved trend towards more airbags per car and fuII-size bags. There is also a technical challenge of producing the bag by using more rational techniques and related specifications made by the automotive industry.

A Story for the Australian Automotive Industry

Introduction to the Topic

Australia is one of only a few countries with the capabilities to design cars from scratch and manufacture in significant volumes. Car sales in Australia are also an important factor of the Australian Automotive Industry and the Australian Economy in total.

The Australian Auto Industry (A.A.I. in short) can be divided into two interrelated sectors, the Production ( Manufacturing) sector and the Car Sales (or Import-Sales) sector, both equally important for the total performance of the A.A.I. On one hand, the Manufacturing sector refers to the market conditions under which Australian Manufacturing businesses compete, by producing vehicles and related products, with the main aim of maximizing profits. On the other hand, the Sales sector refers to the market conditions under which car representative sale businesses compete, by the sale of cars and related products, having the same aim with businesses within sector one.

It is very important to state the distinction between these two sectors within the A.A.I., as we will be talking about two different market structures, business strategies, competition conditions, e.t.c. In order to analyse these market structures it would be appropriate to develop two economic models, one for each A.A.I. sector.

1.1-Analyzing the Manufacturing Sector

There is only one market structure that can best describe the market conditions in the Manufacturing sector if A.A.I., this is Oligopoly. As there are only two organizations that produce cars in Australia, and these are Ford and Holden, the competition methods and pricing strategies are based between these two organizations. The following economic model shall help define the competition and economic conditions for the Australian Automotive Manufacturing market.

The first important characteristic of Oligopoly that needs to be stated is that prices between competitors tend to be “sticky”, which means that they change less frequently than any other market structure. This statement will be explained in more detail later on, when we will be developing the Game-Theory model, as it is a very important concept of competition. The second most important characteristic is that when prices do change, firms are likely to change their pricing policies together. These two characteristics can boost up competition within the market. Firms will either try to match rivals’ price changes or ignore them. This is depended on the Game-Theory that is explained bellow.

However, the recent market conditions for the Australian Automotive Industry and the actions of the Australian Government have worsen the competition conditions and possible pricing options available for firms in the market. The production and maintenance costs for a manufacturing business in Australia are already high and rising, mostly due to lack of economic resources and advance of technology. That is, as Holden and Ford try to compete each other, given that prices tend to be “sticky”, they are forced to focus on technological advantage and marketing. Both of these business sectors produce high costs. Furthermore, the Australian government has made it clear that is unwilling to further subsidize automotive organizations in the market. All these factors stated above produce a negative effect on the competitiveness of both firms. In other words, rising costs alongside with decreased revenue push firms in experiencing lower and decreasing levels of profitability.

Profitability and the level of competitiveness are highly interrelated in an oligopolistic market structure, being the two most important factors, alongside with product differentiation, in the competition policies that the firms follow. When we say that the level of competitiveness of a firm is very low, we mean that the firm cannot react effectively to any price changes or competition changes or even changes in production costs. This may leave the firm depended on its’ competitor’s pricing and competition actions, not being able to affect the market competitiveness at all. The firm is then exposed to external danger and can be pushed out of the market, or even worse to shut production and declare bankrupt.

1.2- The Game-Theory Model for Oligopoly

The Game Theory model is used to explain the pricing and competition policies of firms in an oligopolistic market structure. Furthermore, it can show the few different competition policies based on pricing that the two firms can follow, that is High and Low as stated above. All firms in this market structure follow a Game-Theory model, although it is surely more detailed than our example, in the process of trying to forecast competitors’ pricing and competition movements and also keep track of the competition levels in the market and market share. But how does this happen?

For example, let’s say that there are four different fields, each divided in half. These fields represent the pricing strategies that Holden and Ford may use in the process of competing each other. Field A and C represent a High-Pricing policy for Holden, while fields A and B represent a High-Pricing policy for Ford. Lastly, fields B and D represent a Low-Pricing policy for Holden, while fields C and D represent a Low-Pricing policy for Ford. When both firms decide to follow a High-Pricing policy they share a profit of, let’s say, $12 million. If Holden decided to move to a Low-Pricing policy it will experience a maximum of $15 million profit, while Ford’s profitability will fall to $6 million. The exact opposite may also occur, while if both firms decided to follow a Low-Pricing policy they would realize a maximum of $8 million of profit.

What we can identify from the above example is that firms in an oligopolistic competitive market rarely change their pricing policies because this may produce a negative effect on their profitability levels. However, Holden and Ford, being the only two firms in the Australian Automotive Industry, they will focus on competing through product differentiation and marketing. That is, they will try to compete by differentiating their products, for example by producing vehicles with different features, or even base their production on technological advantage. Marketing plays an important role here, as it is the main tool that delivers and connects the customer with product. For example, if Holden introduces a new driving technology that improves driving experience and safety and produces this technology alongside with a newly designed vehicle, it is quite likely that Holden will effectively differentiate its newly designed vehicle from a relative vehicle of Ford and lure more customers in the store. Holden may also use marketing techniques to deliver this technology to the public, in the form of knowledge; hence try to boost sales without changing its pricing policy. However, it is important to state that this new technology may produce higher production costs, if not evaluated properly; hence Holden can only rely in increasing its market share to gain greater profitability. The sales part, however, will be analyzed in more extend within the next chapter of this report.

The Game-Theory is not just a theory for the Automotive Industry in Australia, it’s a fact. It shows us that auto manufacturers in Australia have based their competition strategies on all the factors stated above and as much as they possibly can on pricing strategies. They may advertise that they have low prices, but in fact their prices are very stable. If we have a close look at Holden’s or Ford’s websites, we will identify that there is a huge variety of products and each firm competes in that. However, the new market conditions stated before have greatly changed the way auto manufacturers think of the future and this in turn may change their pricing and competition policies, or even determine their existence in the market.

2.1- Analyzing the Import/Sales Sector

While the auto manufacturers are considered to be operating in an oligopolistic market structure, importing and selling vehicles or relative products is a different story. The import and sale of vehicles is the second and equally important business sector of the Australian Automotive Industry. There are many different car selling businesses and we shall only consider first-hand sales, as second-hand sales in general are not included in economics and more specifically in GDP measurements. To enter the industry hard at all as there are not many barriers to entry, however someone who is interested needs to consider of the high costs in setting up an automotive dealership. All businesses in this market are mostly based on product differentiation to compete and while prices are not “sticky”, pricing competition is set up by the market mechanism and tends not to be considered a regular phenomenon. Lastly, cost analysis and cost management play a very important role. All of the above characteristics refer to the Monopolistic Competition Market Structure. In this market structure we will focus on two phases, the short-run phase and the long-run phase, each with different competition characteristics and outcomes.

An important factor that we need to state here is that when the costs of developing a vehicle in the manufacturing sector rise, then the cost for selling the vehicle for a dealership may rise as well. This is always depended of course on if the vehicle was produced in Australia and if it was produced overseas, under what economic conditions was it produced. Price might be “sticky” for manufacturers, however prices will change much easier in this sector if needs be. Here firms will change their pricing policies if costs either rise or fall and this is always depended on the market mechanism. The amount of competitiveness along with the amount of price elasticity of demand will depend on how many rivals the monopolistic competitive firm will have to face.

In such market the following situation is very common, a situation that helps us distinct between short-run and long-run:

Stage One

In this stage the firm experiences economic profits. However, this fact will draw new firms in the market causing the profits to be competed away.

Stage Two

The economic losses indicated in this stage will cause many firms to exit the market, as they cannot keep selling under these market conditions.

Stage Three

In the final stage, the market clears-up, or reaches equilibrium point. As all firms that needed to exit the market have done so, the market mechanism comes to the point where no economic profits/losses are realized by the firms. This is the point where the market is most stable.

Studying the situation above we can identify one very important fact for any monopolistic competitive firm in the Australian Automotive Industry/ Sales sector. That is that in this market structure, in the long run, firms will realize only normal profits and the market mechanism will eventually reach an equilibrium point. Hence, in the long-run firms will compete mostly through product differentiation. However, in the short run firms may experience economic profits or losses and this is what causes firms to enter or exit the market and “shows” firms how to compete and when to apply pricing competition policies.

Getting to the Top of Tire and Automotive Industry

The world is turning to the tire and wheel industry for the latest and greatest in the automotive industry, including retreading. Customers in this industry need to educate themselves on what the best machines are for uniformity, dynamic balance, and geometry.

In the automotive industry, tire and wheel assembly rooms combine all the needed functions to mount a tire on a rim, test it for imperfections, all before the customer buys it.

Uniformity in the automotive industry, analyzes force variation, runout, and sidewall appearance in tire and wheel assemblies. Without proper inspection, these forces affect the integrity of the tire and ride of the automobile could be drastically compromised. To test uniformity, I suggest finding an experienced company utilizing the ASTEC Tire and Wheel Uniformity Machine.

Dynamic balance measures tire and wheel assemblies based on static, couple and upper and lower plane imbalance. If this is not properly checked, the tires could bounce, wobble and steer improperly. For balancing needs, I suggest VTW Dynamic Tire and Wheel Balance System to test tires before put on an automobile.

Geometry Measurement systems provide a complete analysis of tire sidewall and tire tread width areas. By utilizing geometry measurements the tire should not have any defects, such as bulges or depressions.

As a driver, it is expected that our tires are inspected and good to go when they are brand new. The automotive industry test and measurement system is the before process, before being sold to drivers.

If you are in this industry, the experience and knowledge is already there, the machines are probably already in the assembly room. Maintaining the most up to date machinery is important, though.

Education is also important. In any industry, there is always more to learn, new technology to make a given process more efficient. TGIS-SL tire geometry inspection is the best of geometry measurement machines. Education involves understanding terminology as well. For example, tire uniformity actually pertains to non-uniformity, which is a quantitative measure of force and runout variation within a tire.

I suggest doing a research every now and again to keep ahead of competitors. Who is the leading competitor? Do some research into what they are doing. Why are they the leader? I would say that it is because of the machinery being used and the clientele. There is always a leader in any industry; at least keep up and stabilize to be the top too.

Automotive Industry Use of Tolerance Analysis

Building a car engine is a highly complex task that requires multiple studies. Studies are required to understand the behavior of the materials under heavy heat and pressure conditions. Studies are required to understand the movement of the fluids though the engine for optimization. And of course, studies are required to understand how much variation to allow during the manufacturing process.

The automotive industry is one of the leading industries in the use of tolerance analysis during the design phase. Automotive companies understand that tolerance stackups are requires early in the design process to properly manage variations that will occurring during manufacturing. But they also understand that manual or even Excel based stackups are not sufficient for the demands of their design teams.

Geometric Dimensioning and Tolerancing or GD&T has been in use for many years and is playing an increasing role in the automotive industry. Whether based on the USA’s ASME standard or the international ISO standard, automotive companies are using GD&T to help properly communicate the intent of the design to the manufacturing facilities.

Many companies have final vehicle assembly plants located in countries and regions throughout the world. The costs of shipping out of compliance parts to an assembly plant on the other side of the world can be very high. To solve this problem, automotive manufacturers are using automated software to pull information directly from the CAD systems. Such software reads the GD&T from the CAD models, such as CETOL, CATIA and Pro/e, and increases the efficiency and effectiveness of the design engineer.

GD&T and CETOL type tolerance studies are performed in all areas of automotive manufacturing. Body in White and sub-assemblies also benefit from the better communication and more detailed information available through the use of both GD&T and tolerance analysis. The connectors of the electrical system are very sensitive to manufacturing variations and benefit from these types of studies.

Randomization based studies, such as those used in a Monte Carlo based analysis, lack the precision necessary to correctly predict the behavior of an overall assembly. In order for tolerance analysis to be accurate, it needs to be performed as a statistical tolerance analysis.

In summary, to properly predict the variations that will occur when building complex systems in the automotive industry, proper use of Geometric Dimensioning and Tolerancing is necessary. The use of GD&T and tolerance analysis can decrease the costs and time to market in the highly competitive global automotive market.

The Automotive Industry and Global Trade

In the United States, one city is typically synonymous with the automotive industry. It’s challenging to think of an American made car without thinking of Detroit, Michigan, and in recent years the financial trouble the automobile giant has endured. Though foreign manufacturers in Japan and Korea have gained strength and drivers in the US, it doesn’t necessarily mean US automakers are done. MSNBC reported in late 2011 that the Big 3 in Detroit – Chrysler, Ford, and GM – enjoyed a nearly 30 percent increase due to a demand in sports utility vehicles and trucks.

Quick Facts About the Automotive Industry

Since 2000, an average of 48 million passenger cars alone have been manufactured annually around the world.

According to Worldometers, China produces one of every four new cars, and more than half of all cars are produced in Asia and Oceania.

Of the approximated one billion passenger cars on the road around the world, close to 25 percent of them are registered in the United States. (Source: International Organization of Motor Vehicle Manufacturers)

According to Businessweek, the top selling car in the world is the Toyota Corolla, with sales of well over 35 million.

Major Exporters of Automobiles

While China is one of the world’s largest producers of passenger vehicles, the country is not necessarily ranked high among top global exporters. The International Trade Centre recently put out a report on top automotive exporters, with the following leading the pack:

Germany – The roots of the German automotive industry date back to the late nineteenth century and the various patents owned by Karl Benz. Where in that time the country produced barely a thousand cars a year, now over five million are manufactured. Popular German brands include Mercedes-Benz, Volkswagen, BMW, and Porsche.

Japan – Gasoline-powered vehicles have been built in Japan early as 1907. Despite natural disasters that threatened the nation’s economy, Japan has worked to maintain its place among top car producers and exporters. Toyota, one of the top selling brands of all time, is based in Japan, as are Nissan, Honda, Mazda, and Subaru.

The United States – The US auto industry took a hit in recent years due to the economy. Through a combination of asset liquidation and government funding, the major brands (Ford, Chrysler, and General Motors) have worked to stay afloat. Despite this issues, the US remains a top producer with over seven million cars made on average in the country.

Republic of Korea – Over the last decade, South Korea has established itself as an automotive power thanks to an association between Daewoo Motors and GM, and Hyundai’s presence in the US with a major assembly plant.

Canada – While the country has no major native brand, Canada is important to the automotive industry by virtue of the many plants established by foreign brands, including Ford, Toyota, Chrysler and Honda.

Major Importers of Automobiles

While many countries produce domestic brands, automobile imports remain strong in economies that seek certain qualities, such as fuel efficiency and safety features. Among the top importers of automobiles:

The United States – Of the top brands sold in the US in the last year, many names bring to mind manufacturers from other lands: the Toyota Camry and Corolla, the Nissan Altima, and the Honda Civic and Accord.

Germany – While German brands dominated domestic sales in 2011, there is enough of a demand for foreign models to make Germany an important importer. Ford, Skoda (based in the Czech Republic), and Hyundai are popular names.

United Kingdom – Luxury is often synonymous with the British automotive industry. Aston Martin, Bentley, and Rolls Royce are three makes manufactured here, though Ford, Volkswagen, and the French Peugeot are seen more often on the roads.

Italy – Italy is known for the Fiat and Ferrari, but foreign makes like the Ford Fiesta, the French Citroen C3, and the Volkswagen Golf are also in demand.

France – The French appear greatly committed to domestic brands, particularly Renault and Peugeot, but foreign models from Ford, Volkswagen and the Romanian Dacia are gaining ground in the last year.

The Aftermarket

Equally important to the automotive industry is the manufacture and sale of auto parts and accessories, commonly known as the aftermarket. Sub-industries relevant to automobile sales may include products like tires and paint, stereo and GPS, engines and chemicals needed for operation, leather and vinyl for seating and safety features. According to the Automotive Aftermarket Industry Association (AAIA), the aftermarket in the US alone totals over $250 billion.

Though faltering economies and natural disasters have given the international automotive industry a number of challenges, one can conclude sales are destined to remain strong so long as the need for personal transportation remains. How and where people will by their cars may change over time as considerations for eco-friendly features grow in demand, but so long as people continue to buy automobiles the global industry will continue to gain speed.