Auto industry faces slowdown of key material

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By DEE-ANN DURBIN and TOM KRISHER, Associated Press

DETROIT (AP) — Automakers are scrambling to figure out whether they'll have to stop production for a while in response to a shortage of a key component in fuel and braking systems that a chemical maker says could last three months or longer.

After an explosion damaged a German factory last month, Evonik Industries said Tuesday that repairs to restore the plant to functioning will take three months or longer. The factory makes a chemical called CDT that's an ingredient in a resin called PA-12 that's used in auto fuel lines and brake lines as well as solar cells and sporting goods.

"We are making every effort to repair the plant as soon as possible. It will take at least three months for sure, but we are doing everything to have it repaired before winter," Evonik spokesman Thomas Lange said in an e-mail to The Associated Press.

It is unclear how much PA-12 remains on the market. Evonik, which is based in Essen, Germany, is a major supplier of PA-12, and it supplies some of the small number of other companies that also make PA-12 with CDT.

So far, auto companies say they are monitoring the situation and it hasn't disrupted production.

About 200 representatives from automakers and supply companies met in a Detroit suburb on Tuesday to discuss the problem. Attendees broke into small groups to figure out ways to extend the current supply of PA-12 and identify alternatives, according to a statement the Automotive Industry Action Group, the summit's organizer.

People at the meeting also discussed how companies could test alternatives to make sure they meet the industry's stringent standards. The groups agreed to meet again soon, according to Frank Buscemi, a spokesman for Auburn Hills-based auto supplier TI Automotive.

"Groups were cooperative in looking at other options. Those options may be specific to certain products, which is why there's nothing concrete yet," Buscemi said.

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