The majority of consumers now regard automotive air conditioning (HVAC) as a ‘must-have’ – and this demand is now strong across all market segments, even down to the small ‘A’ and ‘B’ class vehicle segments, where compact and relatively inexpensive systems have been developed to meet market requirements.
However, suppliers are constantly under pressure to deliver extra functionality and reduce the price of their components and systems. The consolidated nature of the sector, with six global players competing for business, means that small differences in price or technology can mean the difference between winning and losing new contracts.
Suppliers have been concentrating on the move towards semi and fully automatic systems, with increased features and functionality. Reducing the complexity of operation through advanced control systems, the introduction of multi-zone systems, as well as improved air quality and sensors are all recent innovations that help manufacturers differentiate their product offering.
In the short term, the industry faces a number of structural challenges which will impact across all segments of the automotive industry. For example, there is a clear trend towards smaller vehicles and smaller engines – which, along with the move away from manual to automatic systems, presents significant engineering and revenue challenges for suppliers. The move towards hybrid and electric vehicle technology will also present opportunities for this sector, but will place substantial development costs on suppliers.
Overarching those concerns is the ongoing drive, in all major markets, to improve fuel consumption and reduce emissions. The European Union has already taken action to improve this situation, and other markets have also introduced their own legislation. However, while Europe’s car manufacturers are divided on which alternative refrigerant to choose, it seems that the manufacturers in North America and Japan have taken the lead in this respect - having approved the use of their favoured alternative.
The global market for automotive heating, ventilation and air conditioning