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Jennifer Killinger
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Plastics are being used in incredibly innovative ways to help make cars safer and more fuel efficient. They’re at the heart of solutions that make vehicles more lightweight, help increase fuel efficiency and reduce carbon emissions, help provide unparalleled safety benefits like seatbelts and airbags and, plastics help to enable beautiful, sleek contouring and design. What's more, as car makers work to meet sustainability goals and use recovered materials, a growing number of car parts are made using recycled plastics. 


Made from durable strands of polyester fiber, seat belts alone helped save nearly 15,000 lives in 2016, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA). Airbags, commonly made from high-strength nylon fabric, can reduce the risk of dying in a direct, frontal car crash by about 30 percent, according to NHTSA statistics. And child safety seats made possible by numerous advancements in polymer science help to protect our kids at every turn.  

Fuel Efficiency

Another priority in automotive design is weight reduction, a key driver in boosting fuel efficiency, reducing emissions and lowering costs for motorists. Many plastic components can weigh 50 percent less than similar components made from other materials. Modern innovations mean today’s plastics make up 50 percent of a vehicle’s volume, but only about 10 percent of its weight. 


Fuel Efficiency on its own is a great contributor to sustainability. As the use of plastics in vehicle manufacturing increases, lightweighting design techniques — the integration of plastics and polymer composites into vehicle design where some other materials have been traditionally used — can benefit performance and energy savings. But, increasing numbers of automakers are using recycled plastics automotive applications to make things like seat cushions and radiator shrouds.  

Style and Innovation

Plastics deliver the engineering and styling qualities to go just about anywhere that innovation and high performance are demanded. In exterior applications, from bumper to bumper, plastics are not only light weight, they give designers the freedom to create innovative concepts that in many instances would otherwise be impractical or virtually impossible. Plastics also resist dents, dings, stone chips and corrosion. They allow cost-saving part consolidation and facilitate modular assembly practices for reduced production costs.

Learn More:

  • ACC's Automotive Group
    Website and vital resources related to plastics in automobiles.

  • ACC's Plastics-Car Facebook page
    Come join us and discover how cars made from plastics can save money and natural resources through lightweight design, aerodynamics, parts consolidation, and parts reduction while maintaining vehicle and passenger safety.

  • Plastics Make it Possible®—Automotive Plastics
    Plastics are helping to drive advances in fuel efficiency, safety and comfort in cars, buses, trains, planes—and of course bicycles!

Related Resources

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Plastics Statistics

The Plastics Industry Producers Statistics Group (PIPS) provides relevant, timely, comprehensive and extensive business statistics on the plastic resins industry.