Mobility Thanks to Solutions from the Chemical Industry

April 21, 2004 by  

BASF and the automotive industry
Every new car sold today contains chemical products – coatings, plastics and additives – worth approximately EUR 750. Products for the automotive industry accounted for more than 10 percent of BASF’s suppliers currently make up one-third of growth in the automotive industry, and this figure is rising.
The conveyor belt inches its way forward as freshly painted car bodies pass by one by one along the assembly line. Assembly workers fit doors, and robots install the cockpit a little further down the line. The appearance of the finished car is specified in the assembly instructions attached to the underside of the open hood. Whether it´s pale leather seats, a global positioning system or a sporty steering wheel – major manufacturers offer their customers a choice of more than one million different permutations. And customers are fussy, too. They want a car taht´s safe and comfortable, looks good, requires little maintenance and has good mileage. That´s not surprising because owners spend such a great deal of time in their cars. Statistically, every German drives approximately 11,000 kilometers (6,820 miles) a year, and the number for the United States is even higher at almost 15,000 kilometers (9,300 miles). To ensure that car owners get what they want, teams at BASF develop innovative and environmentally friendly solutions in cooperation with partners from the automotive industry.


Identifying customer´s needs
“Through projects with major customers,we get to know their needs down to the last detail,” says Raimar Jahn, head of BASF´s Performance Polymers division and chairman of the Automotive Steering Committee – a platform at BASF that combines activities involving the automotive industry. “Our goal is to team up with customers to cut costs, accelerate development and production times, and at the same time improve the quality of the product and create something completely new.” This integrated approach applies not only to day-to-day business but also to the development of system solutions. For example, the U.S. automaker General Motors has a central contact at BASF for all of its questions.

Comfort, safety and looks
Virtually all makes of cars produced today contain BASF products. In the interior, polymers give dashboards and steering wheels that sporty or elegant touch and help make driving a pleasurable experience. The things that make a big difference are not necessarily noticeable at a first glance. Take polyurethane-based Cellasto damping systems for example. They deserve credit for minimizing unpleasant vibration and noise. That’s 10 automobile manufacturers opt for this system, which allows a precision fit between chassis and body. BASF´s high performance polymers can do a lot more. They can easily tolerate heat, cold and mechanical pressure in engines or gearboxes. “Ultramid® can withstand lubrication oil at temperatures as high as 140C (284 F), that´s why we used this material for the gearbox of a newly developed transmission control module installed in models such as the BMW 7 series and S-type Jaguars,” says Thomas Laux, head of Control department. Solutions from the chemical industry also help to enhance road safety. Brake fluids, airbags and highly complex steering electronics would be unthinkable without them.

But even when there are no further questions regarding technology and performance, buying a car is still a matter of individual taste in one respect: the color of the paintwork and interior fittings. BASF designers keep their fingers on the pulse by scouting out trends and developing colors for the upcoming seasons in close consultation with automotive industry experts from Europe, Asia and North America.

Chemistry delivers sustainable solutions
“For us, developing sustainable solutions for the automotive industry also means adding value on a lasting basis for manufacturers and motorists,” says Raimar Jahn. “Our innovative products and efficient processes focus on the most logical approach, namely reducing fuel consumption and emissions.” Analysis of a vehicle´s energy consumption throughout its lifetime shows that 87 percent of energy is used while on the road; most of the remainder is accounted for by the production of materials and the vehicle itself.


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