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Trends and News in the Lead-acid Industry
By Shirley Georgi

(Sept,02) The Battery Review and Forecast1

Total passenger car and light commercial battery production (both O.E. and replacement) decreased about 10 million units in the U.S. from 2000 to 2001 - a significant drop. Why?

- imports continue to play a role.
- the addition of silver to the positive grid. The lead-calcium-tin-silver positive grid alloy significantly reduces corrosion, particularly at elevated                                   ....temperatures, without any sacrifice to its resistance to positive grid growth.
- improved manufacturing quality control and a reduction in early warranty failures.
- consumers are buying longer warranty batteries at the expense of low priced product.
- today’s vehicle electronics put much less of a load on the starting battery.

Keith Wandell, President of Johnson Controls - Battery Group said, “If you look at a junk bin study...done in 1996, the average battery life (in North America) has improved by six months.”2
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The International Lead Zinc Research Organization and ALABC Technical Committee Chairman Dr. David Prengaman were awarded the Gaston Plante Medal in June 2002 by the Bulgarian Academy of Sciences. The award is named in honor of Gaston Plante, the inventor of the Lead-acid battery.

Dr. Prengaman, President of the ALABC and member RSR Corporation, has been instrumental in improving the technology for the Lead-acid battery. In particular, he developed the continuous casting technology, which underpins modern automotive battery manufacture, and the development of silver bearing lead alloys, which are essential for battery operation at high temperature.    
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Imports from Mexico into the U.S. has risen to over 10 million units. Dick Amastadi of the Doe Run Company estimates that about 25% of the Mexican SLI production was for original equipment (OE) and the rest went into replacement sales.1 This spring both Exide and JCI announced they would no longer manufacture batteries at the Southern California facilities. Delphi also closed its Fitzgerald, Georgia plant. (Data in chart reflects import figures from U.S. Customs and the U.S. Dept. of Commerce.)

 Happenings in the European Battery Industry3

- The automotive aftermarket within Western Europe continues in a modest growth pattern of roughly 1 to 2% per year.
- Like the U.S., 2002 automotive OE (Original Equipment) sales will be down from 2000 and 2001, with an anticipated 14.5 million units expected to be sold in 2002 - a 1.8% decrease.
- The last 10 years have seen considerable consolidation within the European Battery industry, going form 22 different companies in 1990 to 10 in 2001.
- In the Stationary Battery Market, after seeing strong growth in 2000, the market in 2001 dropped close to 1990’s level of 650 million. This figure reflects a strong decline in large VRLA, little change for small VRLA and a slight decline in flooded.
- Since the battery market strongly depends on Telecom and IT (Internet Technology) and there are no signs of recovery in 2002, the current forecast for the 2002 Stationary Battery Market is flat.
- In Motive Power, the development of the total market in 2001, compared to the previous year, was stable due to a strong increase in the first half of 2001 and a sharp decrease in the second half of 2001. The total market volume is expected to decrease by 5% in 2002 due to a two-digit decrease of the OE market and a slight increase of the replacement market.

1 BCI Forecast Report, “2001 Battery Shipment Review & Five year Forecast Report” by Richard Amistadi, Vice President of Sales and Marketing, The Doe Run Company, 04/17/02.
2 Interview of Keith Wandell, President of Johnson Controls -Battery Division, Battery Man, 01/02
3” Status of the European Battery Industry” by Albrecht Leuschner of Exide, Battery Lines of BCI, Summer 2002