Survey: Auto Industry Views Environmental Issues as Top Concern

A survey conducted by DuPont and the Society of the Automotive Industry (SAE) reveals that for the first time in 14 years, environmental concerns outrank cost reduction to top the list of challenges facing the automotive industry.

More than half of the surveyed automotive designers and engineers said environmental factors, such as fuel economy, emissions or clean air regulations, are the industry’s biggest challenges. In comparison, only 32 percent cited cost as the top concern.

"While cost reduction remains very important, the automotive industry's emphasis is on the environment and the demands that puts on innovation," said Chris Murphy, Dupont Automotive Americas director. "In the results, environmental considerations are driving system and vehicle design and development and are a differentiator in the consumer marketplace.”

Survey participants shared their thoughts on a variety of issues, including solutions to help the industry meet efficiency regulations, consumer concerns, advances in materials, fuels of the future and more:

  • Consumer Concerns – The survey revealed that 54 percent of respondents acknowledged that fuel-efficient vehicles with reduced environmental impact are important to consumers. Forty-one percent said enhanced safety is important to consumers, while 37 percent of survey participants responded that consumers want improved comfort and convenience.
  • Greatest Impact on Industry – For the fifth consecutive year, respondents predicted that alternatively powered vehicles will have the greatest impact on the industry. Fifteen percent, meanwhile, cited safety features as having the biggest impact, while 16 percent selected electrical/electronic advances.
  • Meeting Efficiency Regulations – New fuel regulations call for an industry-wide fleet average of 35 miles per gallon by 2020, and when weighing possible solutions, half of the respondents view diesel engine technology as a key focus. Forty-six percent selected hybrid-electric and 42 percent chose lightweight materials as major factors to help meet these regulations.
  • The Next 10 Years – Approximately one quarter of survey respondents said optimizing diesel and hybrid-electric engines will dominate engineers’ work for the next 10 years. And within that time, 27 percent predicted vehicles will run on bio-based diesel. Twenty percent considered that petroleum-based diesel would dominate, while another 20 percent selected E85 and only 18 percent of respondents selected gasoline.
  • The Weight of Materials – Advanced composites are poised to grow over the next decade years, respondents said, with 26 percent citing bio-based, renewable materials as growing the most. And while 91 percent said cost reduction is still a top material selection, 82 percent of respondents chose material weight reduction as the top criteria. This represents a 66-percent increase from last year.

Industry Developments

“Automotive designers and engineers are working with suppliers like DuPont to address these issues and to design and develop cost-effective, fuel-efficient vehicles with reduced environmental impact,” Murphy said.

To support those efforts, Dupont is working to develop high-performance, bio-based materials and biofuels made in whole or in part from renewable agricultural feedstocks such as corn, soybeans, sugar cane and wheat.

Dupont also develops new technology solutions and material families, including nano-metal/plastic hybrids that offer the strength and stiffness of metal combined with the design flexibility and lightweight benefits of high-performance thermoplastics. This material reduces the weight of structural automotive components to therefore improve fuel economy and reduce emissions.

Consumer Insights, Inc. conducted the annual Dupont/SAE survey of manufacturers, supplier designers and engineers for the upcoming SAE World Congress in Detroit.

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