The global automobile airbag inflators market is expected to grow at a significant rate in the coming years, owing to the increasing demand for safety features in vehicles, stringent government regulations, and technological advancements. According to a recent report by Argyle Report, the market size of automobile airbag inflators was valued at USD 4.2 billion in 2020 and is projected to reach USD 5.8 billion by 2028, registering a CAGR of 4.1% from 2021 to 2028.
What are Automobile Airbag Inflators and How Do They Work?
Automobile airbag inflators are devices that generate gas to inflate airbags in the event of a collision. Airbags are designed to protect the occupants of a vehicle from severe injuries by cushioning the impact. There are different types of airbag inflators, such as pyrotechnic, stored gas, hybrid, and cold gas inflators, which use different mechanisms to produce gas.
- Pyrotechnic inflators use a solid propellant that ignites and burns to generate gas. They are the most widely used type of inflators, as they are compact, reliable, and cost-effective. However, they also have some drawbacks, such as high temperature, noise, and toxic emissions.
- Stored gas inflators use a pressurized gas, such as nitrogen or argon, that is released into the airbag through a valve. They are safer and quieter than pyrotechnic inflators, but they are also larger, heavier, and more expensive.
- Hybrid inflators use a combination of stored gas and pyrotechnic elements to generate gas. They offer the advantages of both types of inflators, such as low temperature, low noise, and high performance. However, they are also complex, costly, and require more maintenance.
- Cold gas inflators use a liquefied gas, such as carbon dioxide or nitrous oxide, that vaporizes and expands to inflate the airbag. They are the most environmentally friendly and energy-efficient type of inflators, as they do not produce any harmful emissions or heat. However, they are also the least developed and tested type of inflators, and they face challenges such as leakage, storage, and regulation.
What are the Key Factors Driving the Growth of the Automobile Airbag Inflators Market?
The automobile airbag inflators market is driven by various factors, such as:
- The increasing demand for safety features in vehicles, especially in emerging markets, where the penetration of airbags is low. According to the World Health Organization, road traffic injuries are the leading cause of death for people aged 5-29 years, and more than 90% of the deaths occur in low- and middle-income countries. Airbags can reduce the risk of fatal injuries by up to 45% for drivers and 50% for passengers. Therefore, consumers are willing to pay more for vehicles equipped with airbags, which boosts the demand for airbag inflators.
- The stringent government regulations and standards for vehicle safety, which mandate the installation of airbags in new vehicles. For instance, the United Nations Economic Commission for Europe (UNECE) has adopted a regulation that requires all new passenger cars and light commercial vehicles to have frontal and side airbags from 2020. Similarly, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) in the US has mandated that all new passenger cars and light trucks must have frontal, side, and curtain airbags from 2023. These regulations create a huge opportunity for the airbag inflators market.
- The technological advancements and innovations in the field of airbag inflators, which aim to improve the performance, efficiency, and safety of the devices. For example, Autoliv Inc., a leading manufacturer of airbag inflators, has developed a new generation of inflators that use guanidine nitrate as the propellant, which reduces the emissions of toxic gases and improves the stability of the inflators. Another example is ARC Automotive Inc., which has developed a cold gas inflator that uses carbon dioxide as the gas source, which eliminates the need for pyrotechnic elements and reduces the weight and size of the inflators. These innovations enhance the competitiveness and attractiveness of the airbag inflators market.
What are the Key Challenges and Risks Facing the Automobile Airbag Inflators Market?
The automobile airbag inflators market also faces some challenges and risks, such as:
- The high cost and complexity of airbag inflators, which limit their adoption in low-cost and compact vehicles. Airbag inflators are expensive components that require sophisticated engineering and manufacturing processes. They also add to the weight and space of the vehicles, which affect the fuel efficiency and design of the vehicles. Therefore, some vehicle manufacturers and consumers may prefer to opt for cheaper and simpler alternatives, such as seat belts, which hamper the growth of the airbag inflators market.
- The product recalls and lawsuits related to defective and faulty airbag inflators, which damage the reputation and profitability of the market players. One of the most notorious cases is the Takata airbag inflator recall, which affected more than 100 million vehicles worldwide and resulted in at least 27 deaths and 400 injuries. The recall was caused by a defect in the pyrotechnic inflators that used ammonium nitrate as the propellant, which could degrade over time and explode with excessive force, spraying metal fragments into the vehicle. The recall cost Takata billions of dollars in fines, settlements, and compensation, and eventually led to its bankruptcy and acquisition by Joyson Safety Systems. The recall also tarnished the image and trust of the airbag inflators industry and raised concerns over the quality and safety of the products.
What are the Key Opportunities and Trends for the Automobile Airbag Inflators Market?
The automobile airbag inflators market also offers some opportunities and trends, such as:
- The increasing adoption of advanced driver assistance systems (ADAS) and autonomous vehicles, which require more and smarter airbags to protect the occupants in different scenarios. ADAS and autonomous vehicles use sensors, cameras, and artificial intelligence to monitor the road conditions and the driver’s behavior, and to control the vehicle’s speed, steering, and braking. These systems can also activate the airbags in case of a collision or an emergency. However, these systems also pose new challenges for the airbag inflators, such as the need to adapt to different seating positions, occupant sizes, and crash angles. Therefore, the market players are developing new types of airbag inflators, such as adaptive, multi-stage, and variable-force inflators, which can adjust the inflation pressure, timing, and volume of the airbags according to the situation.
- The growing demand for electric and hybrid vehicles, which create new opportunities for the airbag inflators market. Electric and hybrid vehicles are gaining popularity due to their environmental benefits, such as lower emissions and fuel consumption. However, these vehicles also have some unique features and risks, such as high-voltage batteries, electric motors, and regenerative braking, which require special protection and consideration for the airbag inflators. For instance, the airbag inflators need to be compatible with the electrical system of the vehicle, and to avoid any interference or damage from the high-voltage components. Therefore, the market players are developing new solutions and technologies for the airbag inflators market, such as cold gas inflators, which are more suitable for electric and hybrid vehicles.