Plastics in Automotive Applications

Report Calculates Growing Role for Plastics, Composites in Autos

Automotive plastic products yield economic, environmental benefits. » News Release

Plastics hold the key to a host of safety and performance breakthroughs in today’s cars, minivans, pickups and SUVs.

In automotive design, plastics have contributed to a multitude of innovations in safety, performance and fuel efficiency. Today’s plastics make up 50 percent of the volume of new cars but only 10 percent of the weight, which helps make cars lighter and more fuel efficient, resulting in fewer CO2 emissions. Tough, modern plastics also help improve passenger safety and auto designers rely on the versatility of plastics when designing today’s cool cars.

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®—Going Places
    Plastics are helping to drive advances in fuel efficiency, safety and comfort in cars, buses, trains, planes—and of course bicycles!


In automotive design, plastics have contributed to a multitude of innovations in safety, performance and fuel efficiency. Made from durable strands of polyester fiber, seat belts alone have reportedly helped to save 11,000 lives each year, 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.


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. That’s one reason why today’s cars, minivans, pickups, and SUVs contain 329 pounds of plastics and composites (» learn more).

Innovative Concepts

But, it’s far from the only reason. The fact is, 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 lightweight, they give designers the freedom to create innovative concepts that in many instances would otherwise be impractical or virtually impossible.

As for interiors, plastics have been nothing less than revolutionary. They have proven to be a great material for creating comfortable, durable and aesthetically pleasing interior components, while enhancing occupant protection, reducing noise and vibration levels.

Plastics don’t stop there. In electrical, powertrain, fuel, chassis and engine applications, they’re proving to be strong, durable, corrosion-resistant and able to withstand high temperatures in harsh engine environments.