One company aggressively expanding purchases of parts from what it calls "pure Chinese-owned" parts producers is Japan's Nissan Motor, an affiliate of French automaker Renault.
To prevent the kind of issue Aston Martin has faced with defective accelerator pedals, Nissan routinely sends engineers into supplier factories to reinforce quality control, its purchasing executives and engineers in China have told Reuters.
Nissan declined to comment on the Aston Martin recall and its implications for other carmakers.
Germany's Daimler, which holds a minority stake in Aston Martin and operates several joint ventures with Renault-Nissan, said it was not affected by the Aston Martin recall and does not share the British company's Chinese suppliers of accelerator pedals.
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Jaguar Land Rover in the U.K. said it had "never used" Aston Martin's Chinese suppliers. Now owned by India's Tata Group, JLR was part of Ford Motor's Premier Automotive Group, along with Aston Martin. Ford sold Aston Martin in 2007 and JLR in 2008.
Even Chinese-owned Covpress, a U.K.-based supplier of pedal assemblies and other parts to automakers including General Motors, Renault and Jaguar Land Rover, said it avoids manufacturing in China altogether to "allay fears" about supply chain security.
"We buy the tooling to make things over there, but that's it—we don't actually make anything over there," Chief Executive Officer Kit Halliday told Reuters. "There is no product that we have in the U.K. that we would consider making in China."
According to documents filed with the U.S. National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, Aston Martin found that Shenzhen Kexiang Mould Tool Co., a southern China-based subcontractor that moulds the affected accelerator pedal arms, was using counterfeit DuPont plastic material. The material was supplied by another southern China-based firm, Synthetic Plastic Raw Material Co. of Dongguan, according to the documents.
Kexiang was contracted to mould accelerator pedal arms by a Hong Kong company, Fast Forward Tooling, which in turn was contracted by a U.K.-based manufacturer, Precision Varionic International, according to Aston Martin documents filed with NHTSA.
Plastics supplier DuPont said it is working with Aston Martin to help ensure the material used to manufacture the pedals is genuine DuPont product.
"The best protection that customers and end-users have against counterfeit products and the potential consequences of their use in highly engineered systems is to ensure that they and their supply chains buy only from DuPont and their authorized distributors," it said in a statement.
A Precision Varionic official, Ursula Aldridge, said PVI had no comment. Quality management chief John Penman and manufacturing and purchasing director Roger Osborn did not respond to requests for comment.
Calls to the listed number for Kexiang's small factory in Shenzhen went unanswered. People seen inside the factory during a recent visit by Reuters declined to answer questions.
Zhang Ronghui, a Kexiang factory manager absent from the site but contacted by Reuters on his mobile phone, said he was aware of the recall of Aston Martin parts, but denied any direct involvement with the British carmaker. "We're fine. We don't make things (for Aston Martin). Another company does it," said Zhang, who declined a request for a meeting.
Attempts to contact Fast Forward Tooling and Synthetic Plastic Raw Material weren't successful. A visit to the Hong Kong address for Fast Forward cited in Aston Martin's document found it to be that of a small legal and secretarial firm where the company had registered its business but had no actual presence.
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Aston Martin spokeswoman Sarah Calam said the Chinese sub-suppliers Fast Forward and Kexiang are being replaced, with production shifting to the U.K. The automaker will continue working with Precision Varionic.
In the meantime, she said, both Aston Martin and DuPont have sent people to China to directly supervise the production of all pedal arms, including verifying that each bag of DuPont-branded plastic material is genuine.
As a widely practiced protocol, upper-tier suppliers such as Precision Varionic have responsibility to verify the quality of so-called sub-assemblies provided by lower-tier subcontractors, according to Matteo Fini, senior supply chain consultant with IHS Automotive in London.
"The more one goes down the chain, the less transparent and visible the chain becomes," Fini said.