With the potential to save lives and mitigate serious injuries, the following decades witnessed an increase in the adoption of airbags along with substantial improvements in vehicular passive safety. Driven by stricter norms thanks to rating mechanisms like the European New Car Assessment Programme (NCAP) and a regulatory push, airbags have become mandatory in most developed markets and are witnessing increasing penetration in developing nations. Not only that, the number of airbags being equipped in a vehicle has also grown from the standard driver’s side or dual front airbags to as many as 10 airbags equipped in certain current vehicles.
According to statistics from the National Highway TraDc Safety Administration (NHTSA), by 2015, front airbags managed to save close to 45,000 lives in the United States alone, and the number is further expected to increase to around 2,500 lives every year. Analysis done by NHTSA in 2015 further suggests front airbags alone can reduce fatalities by 14%. As more and more vehicles come on the roads globally, the requirement to improve safety not only for vehicle occupants but also for pedestrians has become the need of the hour. Despite regulators’ efforts to enforce stricter deployment of passive safety features in vehicles, around 1.25 million people are killed each year in road crashes as of February 2018, according to World Health Organization road traffic injuries statistics, and up to 50 million suffer a variety of injuries.
That being said, in order to curb road-related incidents, safety mechanism manufacturers as well as OEMs have turned to technology to strengthen car safety, which involves investing in key active safety mechanisms. Although passive safety mechanisms such as airbags may fall behind in garnering equal interest from safety manufacturers for future safety investments, there have recently been innovations that present an opportunity for this traditional safety component to be part of the future safety brigade.
With vehicle safety now getting its due attention in modern-day cars, newer airbag placement positions and an increase in the number of airbags deployed are driving global demand for this traditional safety component. Although luxury vehicles have continued to be equipped with a variety of airbags and other high-tech safety mechanisms, it is the volume segments driving demand for airbag installation.
In order to attract prospective buyers, vehicle manufacturers are positioning safety mechanisms as one of the key vehicle features to boost sales. Thus, airbags are also benefiting from this strategy, especially in markets where vehicle safety is not one of the prime consumer choices when buying a new vehicle. When analyzed at a global scale, mass-market segments, including the C-, D-, and B-segments, seem to be driving volumes for airbag modules. Thus, it can be inferred that demand for airbag modules is directly dependent on global production of the C-, D-, and B-segments.
For instance, in 2017, C-segment light vehicle production held the highest production share globally, followed by the B- and D-segments, respectively.
Global LV production segment forecast