Sustainable Materials, Technology: Keys to Future MobilityBy Alejandro Enríquez | Thu, 08/26/2021 - 06:00
Q: What role does sustainability play in DuPont’s strategies?
A: DuPont’s sustainability approach is our most important tool to build a better present and future. We recently released our 2030 sustainability goals, which aim to reduce our carbon footprint and incorporate sustainability into our daily practices. DuPont’s plastics division focuses strongly on the automotive industry and it is important for us to have an appropriate follow-up of sustainability practices.
Dupont’s Mobility and Materials Division, Dupont’s largest in Latin America, has significant influence in the automotive sector, which represents 75 percent of our sales. We collaborate with Tier 1s, Tier 2s and OEMs to find sustainable solutions and work toward the future of mobility, such as autonomous and electric vehicles.
Q: How has DuPont advanced in its AHEAD technology and how does this complement DuPont’s role in the Mexican market?
A: Accelerating Hybrid, Electric and Autonomous Driving (AHEAD) continues to be an important strategy for us. About 40-45 percent of our sales in the mobility and materials segment come from advanced mobility products, namely electric and autonomous vehicles, and we have been working on technologies that will help us meet our sustainability goals. But our goals for traditional ICE vehicles and advanced mobility vehicles remain the same.
Lightweighting and vehicle downsizing remain essential for both types of vehicles. Those factors promote greater efficiency, less fuel use and sustainable driving. As for electric vehicles, the lighter the vehicle, the longer the battery autonomy will be.
Latin America’s automotive sector is quite different from more developed markets. We do see a transition toward advanced mobility but it has been slower. In Mexico, several OEMs are embracing global manufacturing practices and some are already producing electric vehicles in the country. The integration and regionalization of its manufacturing platform has put Mexico in an interesting position for the most important market, which is the US.
Q: OEMs have introduced aggressive electrification plans, leading to significant changes in manufacturing process. How does DuPont support OEM efforts in this regard?
A: DuPont’s different business lines allow us to be a Tier 1, Tier 2 or Tier 3, depending on the component. Our specialty structural adhesives and brake liquids make us a Tier 1. We have also developed tailored products for lubricants and Tier 3 products that meet the requirements for automotive applications. New technologies in the automotive sector require more resistant materials to weather different conditions. Temperature resistance in traditional and advanced mobility is a critical component.
We also work alongside OEMs and Tier 1s to design auto parts and systems that meet specific requirements. For example, an ICE vehicle requires between 50 and 100 sensors but an autonomous vehicle requires over 1,000 sensors. We support efforts to develop technologies that can detect certain elements in the environment. We have helped OEMs and Tier 1s develop applications that foster lightweighting and vehicle downsizing.
Approaches to advanced mobility are similar to what the industry has experienced before. For instance, thermal management was important for an engine’s systems. Now, we are addressing thermal management for battery systems. Our business portfolio includes a wide variety of applications for traditional and electric vehicles.
Q: How has the USMCA treaty influenced your strategies?
A: DuPont’s strategy did not shift dramatically because of the USMCA thanks to our strong global footprint. Our presence in the Americas remains strong and our goal is to consolidate our footprint as part of the North American region. That being said, the market has changed. Different auto parts and components were manufactured in China just a couple of years ago. However, the USMCA treaty and the pandemic showed how intricate and delicate those logistics were. The trend today is toward regionalization. OEMs and Tier 1s want their suppliers to be closer to consumer markets. Delivery times are being shortened and, given Mexico’s location, USMCA becomes a unique opportunity for the country to regain its position as the major trade partner for the US.
Q: Industry experts have highlighted how the sector transformed more in the past 12 months than in almost 100 years. What is your perspective?
A: The industry has adapted rapidly, according to the circumstances we are living in. It has been affected by the pandemic and the impact on personnel and by the subsequent chip shortages. What remains a constant in the industry is the collaboration across the automotive supply chain.
Long-term planning did change: it now involves thinking one month ahead. Change is the only constant. Planning has been really short-term oriented as the industry must adapt rapidly, not only because of supply shortages but also because of ongoing transnational logistics. Companies have to adapt to a new reality. The sector is making hard choices for their operations as sometimes the market needs companies to close a facility or consolidate their business.
Q: What basic tenets guide your business progression?
A: The fundamental base of our operations are health and safety, respect for people, Highest Ethical Behavior and Protect the Planet. These are our four core values that represent the foundations of our business. We have three large divisions: Water and Protection; Electronics and Industrial; and Mobility and Materials. All platforms have a diverse product portfolio that can cover industry needs in a wide variety of areas. We are one of the largest companies in terms of water purification, which is essential for the future of sustainability. Our Mobility and Materials division supports the automotive industry in finding solutions for different segments. We are present in a vast number of products.
DuPont, one of the world’s largest chemical companies, manufactures products for personal care, industrial biotechnology, fibers, polymers, high-performance materials and safety equipment.