Officially, carmakers around the world are putting on their best “what me worry” faces and say that they are unaffected by a sudden shortage of a key component, caused by a factory explosion in Germany. Behind closed doors, they are freaking out. Carmakers and suppliers met in Detroit for an emergency summit under the auspices of the Automotive Industry Action Group (AIGP). After the meeting, the first admissions of impending doom surfaced.
In a statement issued after the meeting, AIGP said:
“It is now clear that a significant portion of the global production capacity of PA-12 (nylon 12) has been compromised. In the automotive industry, PA-12 is used pervasively in coatings and connector applications for fuel handling and braking systems. These are highly engineered products produced via very complex manufacturing processes.”
Cyclododecatriene, or CDT, is an vital ingredient in the manufacture of resin that is used in essential automotive components, such as brake and fuel lines. Researcher IHS said in a comment after the meeting:
“The impression is that this is very much a rapidly developing situation and the full implications of the stoppage of CDT production has yet to be properly understood. However, the rapid response of the US industry suggests that problem is serious and has no easy or quick fix.
If suitable alternative materials already existed, they would already be in widespread use and there would be no discussion of a crisis. How easy it will be to find an alternative resin that does not use CDT is open to some conjecture. Given the component testing and approval processes employed by the OEMs and Tier 1 suppliers, it is unlikely to be the work of a moment to find or develop a substitutable alternative material.”
In other words, as noted yesterday, while it can take several months for CDT production to be restored, looking for a replacement will most likely take longer. Even DuPont, supplier of replacement candidate polyphthalamide (PPA) is careful. DuPont spokesperson Carole Davies said:
“We’re working very closely with our customers to understand the issue and where we have materials that can help. There are a number of solutions that automakers are looking at. There are other materials that some automakers use, some don’t. It’s just a matter of finding alternatives that work, getting them qualified and, hopefully, they’ll be enough at the end of the day to get everyone through it.”
Participants of the AIGP meeting characterized the mood as “extremely serious.” They noted “significant concern over the potential for production disruptions in the component industry, with obvious knock-on effects for the OEMs.” The other worry: The material is not used exclusively by the automotive sector. Demand from other manufacturing industries could trigger a run on the ersatz-CDT, if and when it has been found.