TOKYO Japanese carbon fiber makers Teijin Ltd
and Mitsubishi Chemical Corp said on Friday that they each plan
to start supplying fiber-made parts to carmakers by 2010.
The move is in response to growing demand from carmakers
for light but strong parts to boost fuel efficiency as
consumers grapple with soaring oil prices and have become more
conscious of global warming when making a purchase.
The two firms aim to have their carbon fiber products used
initially in high-end sport car and luxury vehicles and then
expand to mass-market cars later.
While Japanese steelmakers such as Nippon Steel Corp and
JFE Holdings Inc are responding to the needs of carmakers by
developing strong but thin steel for vehicle exteriors and
parts, carbon fiber is much lighter and stronger than steel.
But the use of carbon fiber, which does not corrode or
suffer metal fatigue and much more expensive than steel, has
been limited so far to aircraft bodies, racing cars and
sporting goods, among others.
The carbon fiber market is expected to produce 44,000 tons
in 2010, double the output of 2005, a spokesman for Teijin
Major Japanese firms produce about 70 percent of the
world's carbon fiber.
Carbon fiber makers are looking to tap the huge auto market
by reducing production costs.
The world's No.1 carbon fiber producer, Toray Industries
Inc, said in October it plans to spend about 20 billion yen
($191 million) to boost production of carbon fiber for auto
Mitsubishi Chemical Corp, a unit of Mitsubishi Chemical
Holdings Corp, said on Friday it plans to invest around 700
million yen to 800 million yen to build a new carbon fiber
testing facility, a spokeswoman for the firm said.
The firm plans to produce 1,250 tons of carbon fiber by the
2009/2010 business year, a 25 percent increase from the current
Shares of Mitsubishi Chemical Holdings dropped 0.6 percent
to 710 yen, while Teijin fell 1.5 percent to 409 yen. The
benchmark Nikkei average fell 2.3 percent.
(Reporting by Yoko Kubota; Editing by Eric Burroughs)