April 27, 2012 in Business

Automakers pinched by fire at resin plant

Tom Krisher Associated Press
 
Other suppliers

The world’s other three large makers of PA-12 have told their customers they won’t be able to make enough resin to comply with contracts, and they aren’t sure when they’ll be able to, said J. Scot Sharland, executive director of the Automotive Industry Action Group, a trade association that’s organizing the effort to test alternative plastics.

DETROIT – The owner of a German factory that makes a key resin used in auto parts said Thursday that the plant will be out of commission until at least October.

The Evonik Industries AG plant was badly damaged in a March 31 explosion and fire, setting off a mad scramble by global automakers to find substitute materials. A shortage of the resin is threatening to cut global car and truck production just as the U.S. auto sales recovery is accelerating. Automakers and parts companies are testing substitutes but aren’t sure if they’ll be ready to go in time to hold off any auto production cuts.

The Evonnik plant in western Germany made at least a quarter of the world’s PA-12, a nylon resin used in fuel and brake lines and hundreds of other auto parts. It’s even used in household and sporting goods. The plant also makes 70 percent of the global supply of CDT, a key ingredient of PA-12 that’s used by other companies that make PA-12.

PA-12 is unique because it doesn’t absorb much moisture and it resists deterioration when carrying gasoline and other liquid hydrocarbons.

So far no automaker has reported any production slowdowns. But if the industry can’t come up with a substitute, the problem could cause a shortage of some models similar to what happened after last year’s earthquake and tsunami in Japan.

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