Supersized and Super Smart
High-tech components are enriching the driving experience in a variety of ways, including bumpers with backup cameras, heated side mirrors with blind-spot detection, heated and cooled seats, advanced airbag systems and safety sensors to trigger automatic braking. These larger, high-tech vehicles highlight the importance of protective packaging materials to the automotive industry.
While they’re still not as technologically advanced as the Batmobile or KITT from “Knight Rider,” today’s new cars are catching up fast, and they’re certainly a whole lot bigger. High-tech components are enriching the driving experience in a variety of ways, including bumpers with backup cameras, heated side mirrors with blind-spot detection, heated and cooled seats, advanced airbag systems and safety sensors to trigger automatic braking, to name just a few.
Coupled with U.S. consumers’ growing preference for larger cars, including SUVs, pickup trucks and crossover vehicles, new automotive technology is posing a challenge for original equipment manufacturers (OEMs) and aftermarket parts suppliers. With parts and materials becoming more complex, larger, more delicate and more expensive, a high damage rate during shipment can eat into the bottom line and erode customer satisfaction.
This is one reason why spending on protective packaging materials for the automotive industry has climbed to $7 billion annually, according to a report from Transparency Market Research, and it’s expected to increase about 17 percent each year. As specifications for parts change and new parts are introduced, OEMs and aftermarket parts manufacturers are being forced to re-evaluate their packaging solutions.
“With parts becoming more complex, larger, more delicate and more expensive, a high damage rate during shipment can really eat into the bottom line and erode customer satisfaction.”
Size Matters to Consumers
It may have seemed unlikely back when gas prices skyrocketed to $4 a gallon, but American car buyers increasingly feel that bigger is better. According to the Automotive News Data Center, sales this past January were led exclusively by pickup trucks – the Ford F-Series, Chevrolet Silverado and RAM – with the Honda CR-V crossover vehicle checking in fourth. Compacts and sedans are quickly falling out of favor with consumers.
Since parts for pickups and SUVs typically are larger, heavier and require more raw materials to produce, any movement during shipping has the potential to create a bigger loss for manufacturers. Packaging materials such as temporary protective films and bumper wraps have never been more critical.
An Aging Fleet of Vehicles
Sales of new cars in the U.S. remained strong in 2018, totaling 17.3 million vehicles, up 0.3 percent from the prior year, as reported in The Wall Street Journal. But those numbers don’t tell the whole story. American drivers also are keeping their cars longer than ever.
According to the Auto Care Association’s 2018 State of Auto Care Report, the average age of Americans’ cars is 11.7 years, and over the next five years, the number of cars that are at least 12 years old is projected to increase 12 percent. Those older vehicles are fueling a U.S. aftermarket parts industry with annual sales of nearly $400 billion, according to AutomotiveAftermarket.org.
Upgrading Packaging Solutions
Pregis’ team of packaging engineers can help OEM and aftermarket parts manufacturers protect their products during shipment to retail stores, dealerships, repair shops and the growing ranks of do-it-yourself vehicle owners.
In a recent Pregis case study, a wheel manufacturer had been using Chinese nonwoven polypropylene materials that left a sticky residue on the shiny, delicate wheel surface. When the manufacturer upgraded to Pregis’ Microfoam® low-density polypropylene solution, damage from friction was reduced, and the residue problem was eliminated.
Another parts supplier with a wide array of products was seeing damage rates as high as 25 percent due to inconsistency from packers. But by upgrading to Pregis’ on-demand foam and 100 percent recycled and recyclable paper solutions, the manufacturer could produce protective packaging materials tailored to its most popular parts, saving the company thousands of dollars in damages each month.
With auto parts becoming larger, more valuable and more intricate, OEMs and aftermarket suppliers can’t afford to treat their products like crash-test dummies. Smarter, more-durable packaging materials can help manufacturers ensure that their parts only get to move on the open road – instead of inside the box.
To learn more about Pregis’ solutions for the automotive industry, visit