FRANKFURT -- Carmakers including Audi and Mercedes-Benz are turning to high-tech adhesives as they seek ways to make vehicles lighter and tougher.
Automakers are using more aluminum and exotic composites, which cannot be welded together but have to be glued with adhesives that will not lose their strength and can hold together parts even at top speeds and high pressure. That puts industrial adhesives -- made up of chemicals such as the polyolefins that are used in Croc shoes and tennis racket strings -- at the top of carmakers' shopping lists.
The $2.6 billion to $3.9 billion market for automotive adhesives accounts for less than 10 percent of the global adhesives market, but industry experts forecast the amount of glue used in an average vehicle may grow by at least a third over the next five to 10 years, from around 33 pounds now.
As well as sealants that fill in tiny gaps in the various joints of a car, stronger structural adhesives can now be used to hold together and stiffen load-bearing parts and components such as doors, bumpers and struts.
"Those who can demonstrate that their glue has something different to offer, and that it can be easily integrated into production processes, will achieve good margins," said Fabrice Roghe, a partner specializing in industrial goods at Boston Consulting Group in Dusseldorf, Germany.