With the auto industry getting more interested in using composites, DSM Engineering Plastics wants to dramatically grow its automotive business in North America during the first half of this decade.

The Evansville, IN-based company is a player in various types of nylon, polyesters and polycarbonate, which are used in applications such as air bag canister holders and oil-level sensors.

“Our automotive business in North America is still relatively small. It's about a $60 million business,” says Fred Boss, DSM automotive business manager. “But it's doubled in the last five years, and we're going to work to double in the next five years.”

DSM says it will reach that goal by winning new product applications rather than trying to gain a chunk of an existing business, and assisting suppliers overwhelmed with increased design responsibilities. “There's a very large subset of customers that have a tremendous amount of design put on them, even though they are very much inundated,” says Mr. Boss. “They have been left behind by the major plastics suppliers because they don't fund a lot of the efforts that are going on. These (smaller suppliers) are not fitting any more within the stale business environment that's been created by these (larger) companies, and they want to have interaction,” Mr. Boss says. “They're very innovative. They generally are very progressive companies. They may be only a $300 million company and therefore don't fit the benchmark of a DuPont or a GE. So we feel with innovative products and having innovative, driven customers we can grow. And we've proven that. In that subset of customers, we've grown close to 20% per year.”

Roeland Polet, DSM vice president of sales and marketing, says underhood applications present the biggest opportunity for growth for his company. “Once the ‘metals crowd’ in the powertrain parts of companies retire, I think that's going to be the next big area for growth. I think in the next 10 to 15 years, there's where you're going to see a lot of conversion.”