The FOCUS keynote address was given by Dave Cutting of LMC Automotive Inc. (formerly J.D. Power Automotive Forecasting), who shared an outlook on the global automotive industry. Cutting reported that global automotive sales increased by 5% last year and are expected to grow 6% this year. U.S. automotive sales are seeing significant recovery.
In North America, Cutting noted that the short-term outlook is positive, and that there are several long-term factors that are driving growth, including vehicle age, used-vehicle pricing and increased export opportunities. Trends in the automotive industry include a move to more compact processes to reduce energy; lighter-weight materials, which means more plastics and more coatings for plastics; and new opportunities in soft-touch coatings.
The FOCUS Conference featured tabletop exhibits, 12 technical presentations, a student poster competition and a panel session that discussed the future of automotive coatings. Members of the panel included Scott Clifford, FANUC Robotics America Corp.; Mark Nichols, Ford Motor Co.; Cynthia Templeman, Toyota Motor Engineering and Manufacturing, N.A., Inc.; and Jim Ohlinger, PPG Industries. They discussed the challenges of painting vehicles today and in the future, and fielded questions from the audience. Conference organizers reported that there were 177 attendees, up from 140 last year.