TOKYO -- A Mitsubishi Chemical Holdings unit is set to team with a U.S. materials maker to manufacture and sell carbon fiber components taking off in the luxury-vehicle market.
Japan's Mitsubishi Rayon will form a joint venture in the U.S. with Continental Structural Plastics, or CSP, within the year. CSP has a strong hold on the market for automotive components made from glass-fiber reinforced polymers, with sales of around $600 million and production centers in the U.S., Mexico, France and China.
Each partner's investment ratio, the size of the venture's capital and other details will be set going forward. Mitsubishi Rayon will supply carbon fiber and production technology. The joint company will produce structural elements of vehicles, such as bumper beams and the pillars supporting a car's ceiling and doors, to be sold to automakers via the U.S. company's sales channels.
CSP aims with the partnership to fill out its range of products made with carbon fiber reinforced polymers, lighter cousins of the glass-bearing materials, to grow sales. Mitsubishi Rayon looks to use the auto market as a source of growth for its carbon fiber business, with plans to boost sales nearly 70% above the present level to 100 billion yen ($882 million) by fiscal 2020. The Japanese company will begin producing intermediary materials for carbon fiber polymers in Germany as soon as September. The joint venture with CSP will add a third point to Mitsubishi Rayon's global production and sales network for the materials.
Carbon fiber, prized for its light weight relative to its strength, has a number of uses, including in aircraft, wind power turbines and pressure vessels. The material is also gaining traction in the market for luxury automobiles and electric vehicles, where it is used to improve fuel efficiency. The global market for auto-use carbon fiber in 2025 will reach 327.8 billion yen, 4.5 times the 2014 level, market research company Fuji Keizai predicts.