Last week, we discussed how float glass is madefrom huge piles of sand and shipped to consumers. Now we’re going to continue that journey from fabrication to the end customer. Over the next few weeks, we will examine the routes to market for a variety of different glass uses. This week, we focus on the automotive industry.
There are two main destinations for automotive glass after it leaves the float line: vehicle manufacturers and glass replacement.
Vehicle manufacturers don’t fabricate glass. However, they do design the end product and all the specs for that product. For example, the vehicle design team at Chevrolet creates window specs for new Silverado truck models. After the needs are identified, Chevrolet allows multiple suppliers to bid and compete for yearly contracts to fabricate and supply the glass for every Silverado model that rolls off the assembly line. This bidding takes place every year. Sometimes cars will have one supplier in 2016, and a different one in 2017. The glass looks the same to the end user, but the origin of that product is entirely different.
While contracts and bids for commercial glass are confidential due to the private nature of the business, you can still see a public contract bidding. Here is a contract that Tarrant county submitted for bidding in 2016.Their deal was explicitly for vehicle window replacement rather than new product production. A company like Chevrolet would do something similar but would be looking for a supplier for their production line.
The result of this process is referred to as “O.E.” glass, or “Original Equipment.” This is the highest quality of automotive glass available as it’s straight from the source. O.E. glass is taken straight from the float line to an automotive fabricator that creates the end product. From the fabricator, glass travels to the production line and authorized resellers like dealers and licensed repair shops. At this last stop, they put the carmaker’s logo (think Chevrolet or BMW) directly on the window under the car manufacturer’s watch.
There is a second route for automotive glass to take after the float line, and that’s window replacement. This glass is sold from the factory to fabricators who create glass to the specifications of nearly every car make and model. This glass, called OEM (Original Equipment Manufacturer) glass, is the closest thing you can get to an original. It’s manufactured to precisely the same specifications as OE glass but is not made by the original licensed manufacturer, and as such doesn’t receive the carmaker’s logo. After OEM glass is created, it’s sold to installation companies across the globe for use in nearly every type of consumer car.
Automotive glass is just one of many uses for glass after it leaves the float line. Have you encountered any issues with automotive glass? Tell us about it below!
To learn more about float glass and its uses, subscribe to Glass Buyers Monthly!