In 1998, approximately 57,000 Tonnes of plastic composites were utilized as body panels on cars and trucks in North America. Three material types, generically labeled SMC, RIM and Thermoplastic are vying to carve a market niche from steel which dominates the market place with an estimated volume of 1 million Tonnes per year. Since plastic body panels have higher material costs but lower tooling costs, they are primarily utilized when build volumes are less than 200,000 vehicles per year or specific composite performance capabilities are demanded.This paper reviews the various performance parameters required of a body panel material and the relative strengths of Aluminum, RIM, SMC, Steel and Thermoplastics to meet these demands. A decision making process is utilized which allows for a comparison between the different materials.Since cost is so critical, it is left as an independent variable. A cost versus performance graph is generated which compares the five materials for a potential body panel application at a volume of 100,000 vehicles per year. RIM gives the best cost/performance characteristic for the composite materials and is competitive with steel at this volume.