By Lauren Hilgers, Plastics News correspondent
Shanghai -- Many manufacturers at the Asian-Pacific International Plastics and Rubber Industry Exhibition, held 25-28 Nov in Shanghai, seemed to be breathing a tentative sigh of relief.
After a sharp drop in sales early in the year, machine makers are seeing an improvement in the market, pushed forward by China's stimulus and a booming automotive market.
"This year the market has changed," said Richard Chen, sales director for Demag Plastics Machinery (Ningbo) Co. Ltd. "Before our main market was electronics; but things are shifting."
Chen sees the automotive and packaging industries playing an increasingly important role in the domestic market. And, as these markets grow, domestic customers are becoming increasingly important.
Auto sales in China jumped earlier this year in a response to government stimulus measures offering discounts and rebates for new car and home appliance buyers. The upward trend has continued, with auto sales jumping 93 percent year-on-year in November. Ripples from the hot auto industry have made their way to plastics companies throughout the region, according to machinery suppliers.
"We're selling quite a bit in automotive," said Joachim P.K. Lim, general manager of Conair Trading (Shanghai) Co. Ltd. "We've also seen increases in the aircraft industry and the medical industry. "After a dip in sales earlier in the year, starting in about March sales started to return to normal," he said.
As domestic automakers thrive, many companies in the region are shifting their priorities to accommodate the trend. Increasingly, domestic manufacturers are placing more orders than their international counterparts.
And, as opportunities increase at home, machine makers are facing more domestic competition. Chen, for example, said Demag will be moving to make more large machines available in the domestic Chinese market. "There is more competition in smaller machines," he said.