FocusTrucks, new models propel strong demand for automotive petchems

09 May 2013 22:27  [Source: ICIS news]

Trucks, new models propel strong demand for automotive petchemsBy Mark Yost

HOUSTON (ICIS)--Normally, May is when petrochemical producers start to see orders from the auto sector start to tail off, mainly because many US auto plants shut down for six weeks or more during the summer. But that's not happening this year, sources said on Thursday.

Thanks to robust US auto sales and a slew of new product offerings, automotive demand for petrochemicals such as acrylonitrile-butadiene-styrene (ABS) and nylon remains strong, and industry sources do not see it waning anytime soon.

"This year is different," said one source who sells ABS to auto parts makers.

"Automotive production remains strong with the forecast at 15.9m units for 2013," said one nylon producer. "Weekly production remains strong with indications of increased demand. There has been no indication regarding the normal summer slump this year."

"New projects are launching, and platforms that launched late last year are now ramping up," said another ABS source. "Auto demand is very good for the Americas, and pricing is solid."

Only one source said they weren't seeing better-than-expected orders for the next few months.

"We are still forecasting the typical business cycle of shutdowns in July and August for auto business," said one nylon source. "If this doesn't happen, then it's an upside to our forecasts."

The forecast for US auto sales of 15.9m light cars and trucks in 2013 may be a little optimistic, as most forecasts are in the 15.5m range. In April, US auto sales were 14.9m annual units, the first time the monthly average has dipped below the 15m unit mark in five months. That is still a healthy pace from the doldrums of 2009 and auto sales below 10m units a year.

Full-size pickup trucks were a particularly strong segment in April, and one of the reasons petrochemical makers cite for the continuing strong demand from the auto industry. GM reported that April sales of pickups were up by 23% year over year, while sales of Ford's best-selling F-150 pickup jumped by 24% and Chrysler sold 49% more Dodge Ram pickups than it did a year ago.

As a result of strong sales, Ford said it will add about 2,000 jobs at its Kansas City, Missouri truck plant. Chrysler, too, will add a third shift at its Warren, Michigan truck plant. All of GM's truck plants operate three shifts, and last year the Detroit auto maker announced it would add a third shift at its Arlington, Texas sport-utility vehicle plant.

New product launches are also boosting demand for petrochemicals. Chrysler is completing the launch of the refreshed 2014 Jeep Grand Cherokee and the 2013 Ram Heavy Duty pickup truck. Chrysler is also ramping up for the launch of the 2014 Dodge Durango.

Over at GM, ramp-up for new versions of the Chevrolet Camaro Z28, Cruze Clean Turbo Diesel, Impala and the Silverado pickup could keep demand for plastics at above-normal levels through the summer and into the third quarter.

The American Chemistry Council (ACC) estimates that each automobile contains an average of $3,297 (€2,506) worth of chemicals, such as acrylonitrile-butadiene-styrene (ABS), nylon, polycarbonate (PC) and others.

($1 = €0.76)

By: Mark Yost
+1 713 525 2653

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