Damage at German resin plant affects key auto parts worldwide

A shortage of the resin is threatening to cut global car and truck production.
By TOM KRISHER Published: April 27, 2012
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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. 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 doesn't absorb much moisture and it resists deterioration when carrying gasoline and other liquid hydrocarbons.

Automakers and their parts makers have been trying to divert their remaining supplies of PA-12 to lines and connectors that carry fuel and brake fluid. 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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