Use of laminated side glazing in European cars has grown 18-fold since its 1998 introduction and is set to double again by 2005.
Laminated side glass is safer, quieter and help prevent break-ins, said the Advanced Automotive Glazing Manufacturers Association (AAGMA).
AAGMA was recently formed by automotive glass suppliers Dupont, HT Troplast, Huntsman, 3M, Pilkington, Saint Gobain Sekurit, Sekisui, Solutia and Splintex/AGC. The companies produce three-quarters of the glass supply worldwide and virtually all the interlayer used in laminated glass.
More than 1 million existing cars in Europe, mainly luxury and executive models, have laminated side glazing. But the technique is now being used on such family models as the Audi A4, said AAGMA spokesman Philip Corkhill.
Two models launched this year - the Mercedes E class and Volvo XC90 - have laminated side glazing and three more will have it, said Corkhill. Another 15 models are scheduled to adopt it by 2006.
Laminated glass, already universally used in windshields, is much tougher to break than tempered glass.
UK crime statistics have shown that 46 percent of auto break-ins - more than 1.8 million a year - are via smashed side windows. New British insurance industry five-star ratings for theft resistance are now given only to cars fitted with laminated side glazing.
This glass is more likely to prevent occupant ejection in accidents. No figures for Europe are available, but research in the USA suggests that as many as 1,000 deaths and 500 serious injuries per year caused by partial or complete ejection would be prevented by laminated front side-window glazing, and the effect in Europe could be similar, said Corkhill.
In addition to security and safety, this glass has comfort advantages because it reduces noise intrusion into the vehicle by at least 3 decibels and blocks more than 95 percent of the sun's ultraviolet rays.