SOUTHFIELD, Michigan (Bloomberg) -- Automaker and supplier executives were meeting today near Detroit to find alternative sources of resin used to make brake- and fuel-system components.
The officials are searching for options after a March 31 explosion at Germany-based chemical maker Evonik Industries halved the global source of an ingredient used to make the resin, called PA-12.
TI Automotive Ltd. warned its customers in an April 12 letter of severe shortages interrupting production "in the next few weeks."
TI Automotive supplies brake and fuel lines, as well as fuel tanks and pumps, to all major automakers, including General Motors Co., Ford Motor Co., Toyota Motor Corp. and Volkswagen AG, according to its Web site.
Evonik has begun repairs at its factory in Marl, Germany, Ruben Thiel, a spokesman for the Essen, Germany-based company, said. "Every conceivable effort" is being made to rebuild the plant "before winter," he said.
Other makers of PA-12 are France's Arkema, Switzerland's Ems-Chemie Holding AG and Japan's Ube Industries, Thiel said.
TI Automotive and other suppliers recognized the tight supply of Cyclododecatriene, also called CDT, and PA-12 two or three years before last month's blast at Evonik's factory, said Neil De Koker, president of the Original Equipment Suppliers Association.
Rising production of commercial trucks, which also require parts made with the resin, had stretched supplies even before the explosion, said Aurelien Paumier, director of Arkema's technical polymers business unit for North America.
While Evonik plans to add capacity in Asia, a new factory won't be ready until the end of 2014. "When an accident happens and it gets discovered this is a critical product that could affect shutting down assembly lines, people tend to get together very quickly," De Koker said.
While automakers and their suppliers have reacted quickly, it may be difficult for the industry to find a solution in time to avoid losing production because of the nature of the parts that use CDT and PA-12, De Koker said.
"Brake lines and fuel lines are safety products, so you don't make changes overnight," he said. "You have to do them very carefully with the right testing to prove out the product."
Parts suppliers typically have about two weeks supply of the resin on hand, he said. Shortages of PA-12 probably will last about six to nine months, Arkema's Paumier said. Arkema customers are testing alternative polymers, made from castor oil, he said.