Sit on It: Foam Shortage Concerning Suppliers

Matt Posky
by Matt Posky
sit on it foam shortage concerning suppliers

You’ve no doubt heard about the chip shortage sweeping the automotive industry. But have you heard of the foam shortage? That’s right, there’s a dazzling new deficit of supplies in the manufacturing sector and it’s affecting your seats. The semiconductor crisis is so winter. Next season’s hottest supply trend involves those lovely little petrochemicals necessary for foam production.

Texas storms that left millions without power last month, during one of the coldest winters in the region, could have reportedly shorted oil refinery output to a worrying degree. There is now an underabundance of refinery byproducts used to make propylene oxide, which is required to produce polyurethane foam, which is used to manufacture car seats.

While no seating manufacturer has yet announced production stops, Crain’s Business reported that at least one supplier said they’d be out of materials by Monday.

“A lot of production is down still for oil refinery byproduct and in a few days no one is going to be able to make [propylene oxide],” an anonymous executive told the outlet. “Everyone is scrambling. This problem is bigger and closer than the semiconductor issue.”

Others, including one we spoke to, expressed concerns that a foam shortage could start impacting production in a few weeks.

On Thursday, Automotive News interviewed a purchasing executive with a major automaker who also expressed concerns that it might not be much longer before the matter impacted vehicle assembly. “It’s currently a threat, not a given,” they said. “The first impact is the second half of March. … I assume everyone is looking for alternative supplies globally.”

Not all seating suppliers are worried, however. Faurecia said it said it has gone unimpeded thus far, while others had no comment. The situation appears to be similar with automakers. Most are on yellow alert and opening channels with seating suppliers. But none of them have reported any production problems yet. While that seems a good sign, automakers and suppliers typically announce shutdowns a few days in advance. Everyone’s keeping their fingers crossed that won’t be necessary.

[Image: Volkswagen Group]

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  • Jeff S Jeff S on Mar 07, 2021

    @mcs--Good one. No padding necessary.

    • Mcs Mcs on Mar 07, 2021

      They could 3d print padding with a lot of industrial grade 3d printers. Use TPU filament, design 2 surfaces about an inch or more apart, then start playing with the fill settings to connect the two for the best pad. I've been thinking about using the same tactic to make vibration isolation pads. TPU would be great. PTFE might be good too. For me, making just a few isn't a problem, but for mass production, it gets tougher. Probably go with multiple heads in a single line and a continuous linear bed. Use either TPU or PTFE. I can see it now, automakers sending vans out to scrounge for soda/pop bottles to convert to filament for seat cushions when there's a shortage.

  • Jeff S Jeff S on Mar 07, 2021

    Well that would solve the problem of the number of soda and water bottles going into landfills and resolve a material shortage.

  • Analoggrotto By the time any of Hyundai's Japanese competitors were this size and age, they produced iconic vehicles which are now highly desirable and going for good money used. But Hyundai/Kia have nothing to this point that anyone will care about in the future. Those 20k over MSRP Tellurides? Worn out junk sitting at the used car lot, worn beyond their actual age. Hyundai/Kia has not had anything comparable to the significance of CVCC, 240Z, Supra, Celica, AE86, RX-(7), 2000GT, Skyline, GT-R, WRX, Evo, Preludio, CRX, Si, Land Cruiser, NSX etc. All of this in those years where Detroiters and Teutonic prejudiced elitists were openly bashing the Japanese with racist derogatory language. Tiger Woods running off the road in a Genesis didn't open up a moment, and the Genesis Sedan featuring in Inception didn't matter any more than the Lincoln MKS showing up for a moment in Dark Knight. Hyundai/Kia are too busy attempting to re-invent others' history for themselves. But hey, they have to start somewhere and the N74 is very cool looking. Hyundai/Kia's biggest fans are auto Journalists who for almost 2 decades have been hyping them up to deafening volumes contributing further distrust in any media.
  • Bd2 Other way around.Giorgetto Giugiaro penned the Pony Coupe during the early 1970s and later used its wedge shape as the basis for the M1 and then the DMC-12.The 3G Supra was just one of many Japanese coupes to adopt the wedge shape (actually was one of the later ones).The Mitsubishi Starion, Nissan 300ZX, etc.
  • Tassos I also want one of the idiots who support the ban to explain to me how it will work.Suppose sometime (2035 or later) you cannot buy a new ICE vehicle in the UK.Q1: Will this lead to a ICE fleet resembling that of CUBA, with 100 year old '56 Chevys eventually? (in that case, just calculate the horrible extra pollution due to keeping 100 year old cars on the road)Q2: Will people be able to buy PARTS for their old cars FOREVER?Q3: Will people be allowed to jump across the Channel and buy a nice ICE in France, Germany (who makes the best cars anyway), or any place else that still sells them, and then use it in the UK?
  • Tassos Bans are ridiculous and undemocratic and smell of Middle Ages and the Inquisition. Even 2035 is hardly any better than 2030.The ALMIGHTY CONSUMER should decide, not... CARB, preferably WITHOUT the Government messing with the playing field.And if the usual clueless idiots read this and offer the tired "But Government subsidizes the oil industry too", will they EVER learn that those MINISCULE (compared to the TRILLIONS of $ size of this industry) subsidies were designed to help the SMALL Oil producers defend themselves against the "Big Oil" multinationals. Ask ANY major Oil co CEO and he will gladly tell you that you can take those tiny subsidies and shove them.
  • Dusterdude The suppliers can ask for concessions, but I wouldn’t hold my breath . With the UAW they are ultimately bound to negotiate with them. However, with suppliers , they could always find another supplier ( which in some cases would be difficult, but not impossible)