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Quake Wipes Out Car Paint Additive

Monday, March 28, 2011

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The shutdown of a Japanese paint additive plant—the product’s only global supplier—is creating havoc with auto and truck production worldwide.

Car manufacturers worldwide are facing paint shortages that have cut production of hundreds of thousands of vehicles in recent weeks.

Toyota Motors, Chrysler LLC, GM, Ford Motor and others have all been affected by interruption in the supply of the metallic additive Xirallic, which gives a glittering shine to red, black and other colors.

Xirallic, manufactured by Merck of Germany, is an enhanced aluminum oxide made exclusively in Japan’s Onahama plant. Xirallic is added to pigments and sold to paint companies worldwide.

Area Evacuated

The Merck plant is located less than 28 miles from the stricken Fukushima-Daiichi nuclear power station, which was severely damaged in the tsunami March 11. People living within 12.5 miles of the nuclear plant have been ordered to evacuate, and those within 19 miles have been advised to do so.

Merck spokesman Gangolf Schrimpf said that 160 Xirallic plant staff and their families had been relocated and that it was unclear when the plant, which was also damaged by the earthquake, could resume production.

Ford, Chrysler Cut Back

Ford Motor, whose founder once famously opined that customers could buy his Model T “in any colour that he wants so long as it is black,” is now restricting that color as well as red.

Ford Model T

Adrian Pingstone / Wikimedia Commons

Black – the only color once available for Henry
Ford’s Model T – is in short supply today at
Ford Motor Co.

Ford is cutting off new orders for Tuxedo Black paint on new full-size pick-ups and SUV models, while scaling back use of Tuxedo Black on mid-sized SUVs and the large Ford Taurus and Lincoln MKS sedans. The company is also scaling back three shades of red on SuperDuty and Ranger trucks, Focus compact cars, Econoline vans and Lincoln Navigator SUVs.

Ford is working with its paint supplier to find an alternative to Xirallic, said spokesman Todd Nissen. "To be clear, though, all these vehicles and colors are available now," Nissen said in a statement. "We have adequate inventories on dealer lots to meet consumer demand."

Chrysler is restricting dealers' orders on 10 vehicle colors because of the potential for a shortage, spokeswoman Katie Hepler said Friday (March 25).

“We anticipate that we currently have an adequate supply to meet existing customer orders for Rugged Brown, Bronze Star, Ivory, Hunter Green, and Billet Silver colored cars,” she said. “As a precautionary measure, we are not entertaining anymore orders on colors using Xirallic.”

Toyota Halts 12 Plants

Toyota Motor Co., the world’s largest automaker, also uses Xirallic, but that shortage so far has not affected the company’s orders, said spokesman Mike Goss.

On the other hand, Goss said, Japan’s disasters have revealed weaknesses in Toyota’s lean production process, and the company has suspended production at all of its 12 assembly plants in Japan at least through March 26. As of last week, the company said it had lost production of 140,000 cars.

‘A Profound Effect’

Overall, Japanese supply interruptions from the Xirallic shutdown and parts problems had cost automakers production of about 320,000 vehicles worldwide as of Thursday (March 24), reports say.

General Motors has stopped production of a truck plant in Shreveport, LA, and a related engine plant in New York State due to parts shortages from Japan.

Mazda Motor Corp. said Friday that it had suspended orders from U.S. dealers for vehicles built at the company's two Japanese car factories because of supply disruptions. The factories have not been damaged, but the disasters have caused major problems with access to parts and supplies, cutting production of 31,000 cars.

Honda Motor Co. has lost 46,600 cars and trucks and 5,000 motorcycles; Mitsubishi Motors Corp., 15,000.

"It has had a profound effect on the global auto industry," said Michael Robinet, vice president of IHS Automotive, a Lexington, MA, research firm.

All told, automakers may lose production of 600,000 vehicles globally by the end of March, IHS said in a report Friday. Manufacturing at Japanese-owned plants in North America may be affected as soon as early April, Robinet wrote in the report.


Tagged categories: Additives; Automotive coatings; Pigments

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