* German chemical company says plant reopened May 8
* Merck says will make paint pigment in Germany as well
* Merck spokesman says co has not decided where in Germany
DETROIT, May 10 The Japan-based plant that was
the sole provider of a glittery paint pigment for the global
auto industry has reopened nearly two months after an
earthquake savaged northern Japan and stopped operations.
The plant in Onahama, run by German chemical company Merck
KGaA (MRCG.DE), made Xirallic paint pigment, widely used by
automakers including Toyota Motor Co (7203.T), Ford Motor Co
(F.N), General Motors Co (GM.N) and Honda Motor Co (7267.T).
Production of the pigment at the plant stopped after the
earthquake hit Japan on March 11, triggering a tsunami and a
nuclear crisis. The plant is about 35 miles, or 57 kilometers,
from the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant.
Merck began repair work at the plant on April 4 and it
reopened on May 8, the company said in a release. The company
expects the plant will achieve a regular production schedule
starting in June.
The company is also looking to make the pigment at a second
plant in Germany. It plans to add capacity at the German plant
by the end of 2011, which will "considerably" boost future
supply reliability of Xirallic pigment in 2012.
A Merck spokesman said the company had not decided yet
where in Germany it would create the additional Xirallic
The company's German car pigments production is situated in
the city of Gernsheim near its Darmstadt headquarters.
In March, the loss of this shimmery paint pigment forced
major automakers to stop making vehicles in certain colors and
search for new paint suppliers.
Ford slowed production of vehicles in "tuxedo black" and
three variations of red. Chrysler Group LLC FIA.MI told
dealers it was restricting orders on vehicles in 10 colors,
including two variations of black and three of red.
In an April interview, John Krafcik, head of North America
for Hyundai Motor (005380.KS), said the company would begin
using mineral mica instead of Xirallic paint. [ID:nN20189701]
Last week, Honda said it was looking for a suitable
replacement for the paint and reconfigure its model line with
alternative exterior paints. [ID:nN02118822]
(Reporting by Deepa Seetharaman and Ludwig Burger in
Frankfurt; Editing by Richard Chang)