The small Chinese injection molding company at the center of a worldwide recall of Aston Martin cars says its name has been wrongly tarnished and it faces serious financial problems because it has lost most of its customers.
Shenzhen Kexiang Mould Tool Co., which was named by Aston Martin as the manufacturer of accelerator pedal arms with counterfeit nylon resin, said it has been forced to close its factory as a result of the scandal.
In a January letter to the U.S. National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, Aston Martin identified Kexiang as its Tier 3 molder of the pedal arms, saying it was "appointed" by the Tier 2 supplier, Fast Forward Tooling (HK) of Hong Kong.
But in a Feb. 20 interview in his factory in Shenzhen, Kexiang's general manager, Zhang Zhi Ang, said his company has no record of working with Fast Forward Tooling, except for a one-off project last July.
At that time, two Fast Forward Tooling employees came to its factory and hired Kexiang to make some sample parts using a mold and materials that Fast Forward Tooling supplied.
Zhang said it's a confusing and frustrating situation for him, and he questioned whether Aston Martin had complete information about its supply chain.
Aston Martin, the Warwick, England, maker of luxury sports vehicles, recalled more than 17,000 vehicles globally after finding that counterfeit nylon resin was used to mold the pedals.
It said the problematic resin was supplied by a company in Dongguan, China, and was not nylon 6 material from DuPont Co., as Aston Martin requires.
The company's recall letter to the U.S. government does not say that Kexiang intentionally used counterfeit resin.
An Aston Martin spokeswoman did not respond to e-mailed questions by Plastics News' deadline, but the company told China's People's Daily newspaper that it did not blame Kexiang for knowingly using fake materials.
'Without workers, without clients'
Zhang said his immediate concern is keeping his company in business.
In an interview with Plastics News and two other newspapers, Zhang said most of his customers stopped doing business with him after his company was linked to the Aston Martin recall.
He said his small company, which owns five secondhand injection molding machines, had 45 employees before the news broke.
All the production workers have resigned and only five administrative staff members remain. The factory appeared to be operating when Plastics News made two brief visits on Feb. 13 and Feb. 17, although it appeared to have only a few employees on the production floor.
"Kexiang is a victim of this incident," Zhang said. "We are without workers, without clients, without orders. We cannot function."
In the interview, Zhang conceded that it's possible his company made the parts that were recalled. But he said neither Aston Martin nor Fast Forward Tooling has presented proof that his company manufactured the pedal arms.
He said he can't say definitively that his company did or did not mold them because Kexiang manufactures many components for other subcontractors. Often those subcontractors do not tell Kexiang how the part ultimately will be used.
But he said he was sure that his company had no other contact or business with Fast Forward Tooling beyond that project in July.
Zhang said his memories of that July project were vague, and added that Kexiang was unsure of the details of the parts it made for Fast Forward Tooling or what Fast Forward Tooling did with those parts. He said key employees who worked on the project have left Kexiang.
Since the news broke, Zhang said he has tried to contact Fast Forward Tooling using mobile phone numbers left in the file at the time, but those phones have been turned off.
Plastics News has tried unsuccessfully to contact Fast Forward Tooling several times since Feb. 12, using e-mail and a phone number from the company's Web site, and by visiting its office addresses in Hong Kong and Shenzhen.
Fast Forward Tooling's Hong Kong office belonged to an accounting firm that filed Fast Forward Tooling's paperwork. The Shenzhen office listed on Fast Forward Tooling's Web site was vacant when Plastics News visited on Feb. 17.
"This FFT is long gone," Zhang said. "Nobody can talk to them so how can Aston Martin prove they have been cooperating all the time?"
He said no one from Fast Forward Tooling or Aston Martin has come to his factory since Fast Forward Tooling visited in July.
The Aston Martin letter that named Kexiang as the manufacturer said that in the United States it is recalling 5,001 cars manufactured by the company since 2007. But Zhang said his company was formed in 2010, raising questions about how much of the molding Kexiang is responsible for.
There is some public information that suggests Kexiang formed earlier. An English language Web site that Kexiang launched last year, under the name Cousun Industrial Co., said the company was formed in 2003 by Zhang.
But he said that date is wrong, and that the Web site was built by a former employee when the company wanted to expand into international markets.
Zhang said he would like Aston Martin to publicly state the Kexiang is innocent and apologize to help the company regain trust among its clients. He declined to say how long the company can hold out in its current situation.
He said he believes Kexiang is a victim of poor management within Aston Martin's supply chain: "This whole situation is caused by Aston Martin."