France's Groupement Plasturgie Automobile is claiming the shortage of PA 6.6 is putting the manufacturers of plastic parts for the automotive industry in serious difficulty.

It added the price of this material has increased by more than 40% since 2017.

The group said it was a structural problem. Only five sites worldwide produce adiponitrile, one of the components required to PA make 6.6: one in France, one in Japan and three in the US. Numerous plastics manufacturers, who declared 'force majeure', have interrupted their production of PA 6.6 and imposed quotas on their customers.

"This material has been registered by carmakers for its technical properties and the processes to approve new materials make it very difficult to find alternative solutions in the short term", said GPA  president, Luc Messien.

This material is used in increasing numbers of applications, in particular in electronics, while it is becoming scarcer at the same time.

PA 6.6 is highly resistant to high temperatures, which is the reason why it is used in parts inside the engine compartment, such as air supply systems, filtration and cooling systems, and in other interior parts, from pedal units to door handles.

The plastic automotive suppliers are asking the plastics manufacturers to quickly open new production lines and to secure their supply chain.

"Breakdowns in the supply of PA 6.6 are due mainly to the fragility of the supply chain. Today, only 55% of Europe's PA 6.6 production capacity is available. At the same time, current demand requires an increase in the production capacity. Hasn't the time come to speed up investments in Europe and renovate the existing lines?," said Armelle Dumont, managing director of the GPA.

Finding alternatives is a complex matter, because the replacement materials must meet the same functional specifications. The materials that meet this condition are often even scarcer and more expensive. What's more, the processes to approve new materials take a very long time.

"We are asking the carmakers to help us, in particular by shortening their approval processes. These shortages of materials mean that supplies to certain members of the GPA will dry up at the start of 2019, a situation that could put the complete production chain in peril. We regret this situation, but we do not have a solution for the time being," said Dumont.

Automotive plastic suppliers (Tiers 1 and Tiers 2) that use PA 6.6 have seen the price of this material rise by EUR1,500/tonne in the last 18 months. They are the victims of an unsustainable scissors effect brought on by the rise in the price of PA 6.6, the quotas and their customers' refusal to pay for a part of these price hikes.

The GPA represents suppliers which design and build components, modules and systems made of plastics and composites for the automotive industry.