Keen on boosting aftermarket sales, China manufacturers of exterior protection accessories are updating their selections in line with the latest vehicle design and styling trends.
Suppliers of bumper guards are tapping material alternatives that echo automakers' increased focus on environment-friendly models.
Fuel efficiency concerns, for one, are spurring the production of lighter vehicle bodies. To add as little weight as possible to the car, companies are focusing on thermoplastic rather than metal constructions. Highly elastic, the former material also allows for design flexibility, which in turn makes it easier to customize guards to the contours of bumpers.
Much of the attention is directed toward TPR and TPE variants that have been strengthened through the addition of mineral fillers, including silica.
In fact, such mineral-reinforced options are just as stiff as PC and ABS but weigh about 7 percent less. Further, they are resistant to fatigue, tear and abrasion.
Some suppliers have also followed the lead of Japan counterparts and are now using a PP-EPDM blend that consists of 25 to 55 percent PP. Besides being less expensive and easier to process than standard thermoplastics, PP-EPDM is recyclable.
Companies are taking this attribute into consideration to support automakers' efforts in designing vehicles that can be easily recycled. Buyer awareness on the matter is also rising amid higher landfill costs and regulatory pressures in key markets, including Europe.
PP-EPDM adoption within China is expected to become more widespread as domestic universities conduct research on the material's applications.
For smaller exterior protection accessories, suppliers are gearing efforts toward upgrades that lend a sporty or luxurious feel to cars. Visual appeal has emerged as an important design thrust because more end-users are now opting to customize their vehicles via exterior styling.
To meet demand, Foshan Shunde Starlight Car Accessories Co. Ltd has released mirror guards featuring blue or red high-brightness LEDs. For instance, the FG-36 model, fitted with a soft PCB, can double as a turn signal lamp. Its 12.5x3.8x1cm housing is heat- and water-resistant.
The supplier has also launched wheel nut protective caps that light up automatically at night. Designs are sensor-based, with the illumination function disabled once the car engine stops. The LEDs are available in at least five different colors.
The model's surface can be spray-painted or chrome- plated for an elegant touch.
Products & prices
|Products & prices|
China offers a range of exterior protection accessories, mostly for utility vehicles and trucks. The major export categories are grille, bumper, door and mirror guards, and mud flaps.
Grille guards come in modular assemblies or welded one-piece bodies. Models are made of cold-rolled or stainless steel, aluminum alloy, fiberglass and fiber-reinforced plastic. Prices start at $60 but can exceed $300.
Full bumper protectors go for $40 to $100. Designs in aluminum, stainless steel, ABS, TPR and TPE lead the selection.
Guard strips for mirrors, doors and side bumpers usually have plastic constructions. Quotes are between $1.50 and $10.
Mud flaps, one of the most mature lines in the industry, range from $1 to $5. These are often produced using rubber or PE.
Companies source the bulk of the material requirement domestically to cut costs. Imported variants are adopted only in some upscale models. ABS can be procured in Taiwan.
Prices are expected to be stable in the months ahead because of stiff competition. Higher material costs, however, are pushing some makers to increase quotes.
Suppliers in China's exterior protection industry engage typically in mixed production, offering vehicle body parts and other accessories. Some of the leading players are also specialists in plastic molding. Factories are often located in the provinces of Guangdong and Zhejiang.
Two-thirds of the sector's output in the exterior protection line is shipped abroad, with more than 80 percent under OEM and ODM contracts.
The top destinations continue to be North America and Europe, which together absorb over half of exports at most companies.
Several enterprises, however, have started branching out into Southeast Asia, South America, Africa and the Middle East. Currently, 20 to 30 percent of China's shipments are sent to these areas. Malaysia, Indonesia, Chile and Peru are among the main targets.
Overall export business remained upbeat in 2009, as manufacturers leveraged their OEM and ODM expertise and low-price advantage to attract orders.
Suppliers anticipate 2010 to be an even stronger year, with the global economic recovery gathering pace.
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