A leaf spring is a spring comprising leaves and is commonly used for suspension in the wheeled vehicles. It is a semi-elliptical arm consisting of one or more leaves, which are strips of steel or other materials that are meant to flex under pressure yet maintain their original shape when not under pressure. Leaf springs are one of the oldest suspension components and are still being used in most of the LCVs and MHCVs. There is another type of spring called coil spring, which has a widespread usage in passenger cars.
Over a period of time, the automotive industry has witnessed a remarkable transition in the leaf spring technology, material, style, design, etc. There are countless styles of leaf-spring suspension available worldwide featuring different mounting points, shapes, and sizes. At the same time, there are a lot of R&D activities happening for the development of lightweight alternatives of heavier steel leaf springs. Composite leaf springs are the outcome of these activities, offering significant weight saving advantage over steel springs without sacrificing performance.
The next five years for the leaf spring market in the automotive industry seems attractive with significant growth opportunities in both, OE as well as aftermarket segments. The market for automotive leaf springs is set to reach an estimated value of US$ 5.8 billion in 2024, witnessing a healthy growth in the coming years. Several factors are bolstering the demand for leaf springs. Among which, rising production of LCVs and MHCVs is the biggest growth factor contributing to a greater demand for leaf springs. Other noticeable driving factors are advancements in the leaf spring technology, such as parabolic leaf springs; greater demand for lightweight springs, especially composite leaf springs; and rising automotive fleet.
The major leaf spring manufacturers are strategically focusing on the development of advanced leaf springs in order to remain a leading player in this fiercely competitive market. For instance; metal leaf spring manufacturers are advancing their product portfolio by introducing parabolic springs, whereas composite leaf spring manufacturers are trying to develop composite leaf springs for heavy-duty commercial vehicles.
Weight reduction is one of the mega trends in the automotive industry. It can be achieved primarily through the introduction of better materials, design optimization, and better manufacturing processes. Selection of any material for an application is based on the relative cost as well as the strength of the material. There are several advanced materials available with light-weighting advantage. Composite materials are one of them with elastic strain energy, better fatigue resistance, and higher strength-to-weight ratio compared to steel. It provides significant weight reduction with adequate improvement in the mechanical properties and is one of the best replacement materials for conventional steel.
Insights based on material type :-
Based on the material type, the market is segmented into steel springs and composite leaf springs. Steel leaf spring is expected to remain the larger spring type in the next five years; however, composite spring is likely to witness the higher growth for the same period. Composite springs offer excellent strength-to-weight ratio, fatigue resistance, and natural frequency and are about five times more durable than a steel spring. Internal damping in the composite materials leads to excellent absorption of vibration energy within the parts, resulting in, a reduced transmission of vibration noise to the neighboring structures.
Insights based on vehicle type:-
Based on the vehicle type, the market is segmented into passenger car, LCV, MHCV, and others. MHCV dominates the market in terms of value and is likely to maintain its dominance in the coming five years as well. Large production base of MHCVs coupled with high penetration of leaf springs in MHCVs and large MHCV fleet are the key whys and wherefores behind the dominance of MHCVs in the market.
Insights based on region :-
In terms of region, Asia-Pacific is expected to remain the largest market for leaf springs in the foreseen future, because of increasing production of MHCVs in the developing Asian economies, such as China and India. China, Japan, and South Korea are likely to remain the major markets in the region; however, India is likely to be the new growth engine of the region’s market in the coming five years. Several automakers are eyeing on the Indian market and have huge plans to open manufacturing plants in the country in order to leverage the benefits offered by the government under several manufacturing boost initiatives, such as Make in India.
Europe and North America, other major markets, are also likely to have a positive outlook in the coming five years. The USA and Mexico are likely to be the major markets in North America, whereas Russia, Germany, and France are the major markets in Europe.
The supply chain of this market comprises raw material suppliers, leaf spring manufacturers, distributors, Automotive OEMs, and Dealers. The key automotive OEMs are Daimler, Navistar, GM, Volvo, MAN, Tata Motors, Peterbilt, and Toyota. The automotive leaf spring market is highly fragmented with the presence of more than 100 global and regional players catering to different requirements of the industry. It is found that a handful of metal leaf spring manufacturers have the capability to manufacture composite leaf springs. The key leaf spring manufacturers are Rassini, Hendrickson, Jamna Auto Industries, Dongfeng Motors, and IFC Composite. New product development, capacity expansion, formation of strategic alliances are the key strategies adopted by the key players to gain a competitive edge in the market.
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