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BASF: Driven to the top by success

Published on 2006-12-20. Author : SpecialChem

BASF: Driven to the top by success

When it comes to things automotive, BASF is really stepping on the gas. And to ensure that its customers are even more on-board, BASF, the world's largest chemical company, is shifting up yet another gear. Driven by a powerful engine with high-performance elements such as successful R&D, quality, innovations, partnership, and a global presence, BASF is continuing its upward journey. "Automobiles have always been regarded as extremely high-tech products for which the latest materials are just about good enough," declares someone who should know what he's talking about: Raimar Jahn, head of BASF's Global Automotive Steering Committee, CEO of BASF Coatings AG and President of the BASF Group's Coatings Division - and therefore a proven expert in everything relating to paints, plastics and chemical products on today's roads.

The drive power here cannot be expressed in horsepower. "Humanpower" comes closer. The slogan used by all the strategic business units and regions that are involved in the automotive industry says it all: BASF Automotive Solutions. Performance Passion Success. "It describes the attitude that underlies our dealings with our customers. It's therefore more than a slogan. We are proud when we see our products and services making our customers more successful," comments Raimar Jahn. He knows: "No car can run without the chemical industry." That's because the automotive industry only uses materials that guarantee peak performance for all vehicles - and more and more frequently these are the outcome of chemical industry think tanks. They are helping to make cars lighter and thus more fuel-efficient, and more attractive at the same time. They also assist in enhancing ride comfort and keeping their manufacturer competitive.

BASF pursues its objectives of saving costs and development and production time, improving product quality, and creating product innovations in joint projects with automakers and suppliers. There is scarcely any car type on the road today that does not contain any BASF products. So, you see, chemistry makes things run better! The chemical industry is therefore making a contribution on which we can even put a figure: every car currently contains chemical products - paints, plastics, and fuel additives - to the value of some €800. "The automotive industry occupies a significant space in the broad spectrum of BASF customers: 'Automotive' is our second-largest revenue source, beaten only by 'General Chemicals' which is responsible for the numerous raw materials that a global player in the chemical industry like BASF always has available," according to Raimar Jahn. In 2005, BASF derived some 10 percent of its total sales of €42.7 billion from the sale of products to the automotive industry.

The benefits offered to the automotive industry by the chemical industry can be illustrated by examples all round the car. Raimar Jahn likes to show his visitors two coated panels. They look exactly the same to the casual observer - but appearances can be deceptive. The paint system on one consists of three coats instead of four - though without any impairment in quality. The function of the second coat, the primer, is taken on by the basecoat (third coat). This "Integrated Process II" during coating results in significant savings in process costs and materials for the automotive industry without any loss in quality for the vehicle as a whole.

Moving on to the subject of automotive plastics: many components in the passenger compartment, including instrument panels, airbags and steering wheels, are made using BASF plastics. For example, the wood trim strips in the Audi A6 or the surfaces of the instrument panels contain polyurethanes from the BASF Group company Elastogran. Cellasto® damping systems from Elastogran used in chassis ensure that unwelcome vibrations and noise are all but imperceptible. No fewer than nine out of 10 automakers have therefore opted for this precision connection between the body and chassis.

Ultramid® is a special plastic which is particularly suitable for withstanding heat, cold and mechanical stresses in the engine bay or transmission. The applications for Ultramid® include the cylinder head cover for the most powerful diesel engine currently available from BMW, the BMW 535 d (272 hp). For this application among others, BASF was the only chemical company to receive the prestigious Bosch Supplier Award from Bosch in 2005.

However, automotive plastics not only look good, improve safety, and enhance ride comfort, they also have a part to play in cutting CO2 emissions. Plastics now account for average of 14 percent of the total weight of a mid-range automobile and thus help make the vehicle lighter. This results in annual fuel savings of more than 2.3 million metric tons in Western Europe. In turn, this corresponds to a reduction in CO2 emissions of 9.2 million metric tons per year. By 2008, the proportion of plastics in cars ill have risen to 18 percent on average, thus making further CO2 savings possible.

Performance chemicals: one example of this is Hydraulan® brake fluid which is used in many vehicle types. There are also a large number of different fuel additives from BASF for gasoline and diesel engines that are blended with the fuel in the refinery. These additives protect the engine components that are subject to heat stress and keep them clean. This means that the engines have longer lifetimes and require less frequent servicing. At the same time, fuel consumption is cut by up to 2 percent. Many automobiles are also rolling off the production line with BASF's Glysantin® coolant in the radiator. All DaimlerChrysler vehicles, for example, are factory-filled with Glysantin at the first fill.

Or take individual automotive components, many with BASF-made materials: Instead of the old bumper, many of today's vehicles cruise the streets with a complex high-tech ensemble made of plastics: polyurethane, polyamide. Door handles, radiator grilles and mirror housings consist of extremely tough plastics, such as polyamide, polybutyl enterephthalate or styrene copolymers. A number of models now contain more than 30 kilograms of such products. Seats are made of polyurethane foams - which, incidentally, are also found inside many shock absorbers. Upholstery has special coatings to make them durable and hardwearing. Leather is tanned and dyed to a soft, high-gloss finish with reagents from the chemical laboratory. Instrument panels consist of polyamide or polyurethane.

And under the hood there is a whole world of polymers - temperature-resistant plastics perform directly adjacent to the engine block which is getting hotter and hotter because of the shrinking package space and growing engine power output; cable and other insulations, gaskets and seals, various units from the fuel pump to the air intake - they're all plastic. Every vehicle leaving the production plant already contains several dozen plastics - and every kilo of these replaces considerably heavier metals, thus helping to cut fuel consumption. Experts predict that by 2020 one-quarter of every new automobile will consist of polymers. No wonder that BASF experts like Jahn are forecasting growing markets for polyamide, polyoxymethylene and polyether sulfone in the European automotive industry.

Seats that are simply clipped together out of three plastic components instead of being laboriously welded from 23 metal parts - launched this year. Components that emerge from the injection molding machine with integrally mounted electronics and make cables superfluous? Already a reality. Nanotechnology for particularly thin-walled plastic components? Of course. You can already buy it.

And the connection with BASF? Though all the application fields listed above may appear to have little in common at first glance, they have not been completely arbitrarily chosen. "They all contain BASF materials and chemicals," explains Raimar Jahn. Ultramid®, Cellasto®, Glysantin®, Neopolen®, Elastollan®, Dyexact®, Astacin®, Corial®, Lepton®, Luran® and Terluran® - your own car is very probably also "Driven by BASF." And paints from BASF Coatings provide the necessary splash of color.

BASF Automotive Solutions. Performance Passion Success

BASF - The Chemical Company - is a leading-edge source of intelligent sustainable solutions to automotive manufacturers and their suppliers worldwide. With a full portfolio of technologies that include coatings, catalysts, engineering thermoplastics, polyurethanes, pigments and colorants, coolants and brake fluids for a broad array of exterior, interior, chassis and under-the-hood applications, BASF - The Chemical Company - develops and delivers the innovations that help the automotive industry improve the quality, appearance, safety, cost competitiveness, performance, comfort, fuel efficiency, sustainability.

Source: DuPont

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