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Europe faces auto plastic shortage

SOUTHFIELD, Mich. - Europe’s auto production will probably be disrupted first if carmakers can’t find alternative resins used to make fuel systems and brake lines, according to a Credit Suisse report.

Automakers in North America likely are carrying one month of supply more than European competitors of the resin, Chris Ceraso, a New York-based analyst for Credit Suisse, reported Friday. Global capacity to make the resin, may have been cut by as much as half after the March 31 explosion at chemical maker Evonik Industries, he said.

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“European users will be the canary in the coal mine for this problem,’’ Ceraso wrote.

Automakers led by General Motors, Volkswagen, Toyota, and Ford and their suppliers are studying ways to find and test alternative materials and avoid production slowdowns.

No automaker has reported canceled or slowed production as a result of the resin shortage. Bayerische Motoren Werke AG “can rule out a supply risk at the moment,’’ Frank Wienstroth, a company spokesman, said Friday.

“We are in close contact with our suppliers concerning the current supply of plastic components and precursors,’’ Sebastian Wahle, a spokesman for Daimler, said.

DuPont, the most valuable US chemicals producer, said Thursday it expects additional demand from automakers seeking to work around the resin shortage. Koch Industries Inc.’s Invista, the maker of Stainmaster carpet, also produces the resin and has “limited excess capacity’’ to make more of the material, said Jodie Stutzman, a spokeswoman.

The explosion at Evonik’s plant poses “real and substantial risk’’ to vehicle production, said Jeff Schuster, senior vice president of forecasting at LMC Automotive.

Automakers who may be most vulnerable to shortages include BMW and Daimler because of their built-to-order production system, Joe Langley, a Troy, Mich.-based analyst with LMC Automotive, said Thursday. Hyundai and affiliate Kia Motors also are at risk because of lean inventories.

“The best indicator will be when it starts being immediate shortages over in Europe, just because of the proximity,’’ Langley said.

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