The small Chinese injection molding company at the center of a worldwide recall of Aston Martin cars says its name has been wrongly tarnished and it faces serious financial problems because it's lost most of its customers.
Shenzhen Kexiang Mould Tool Co. Ltd., which was named by Aston Martin as the manufacturer of accelerator pedal arms with counterfeit nylon resin, said it's been forced to close down its factory as a result of the scandal.
In a January letter to U.S. government regulators, Aston Martin identified Kexiang as the Tier 3 molder of the pedal arms, saying it was "appointed" by the Tier 2 supplier, Fast Forward Tooling (HK) Ltd. of Hong Kong.
But in a Feb. 20 interview in his factory in Shenzhen, Kexiang general manager Zhang Zhi Ang said his company has no record of working with Fast Forward Tooling, except for a one-off project in July 2013 where two FFT employees came to its factory and hired Kexiang to make some sample parts using a mold and materials that FFT supplied.
Zhang said it's a confusing and frustrating situation for him, and he questioned whether Aston Martin had complete information about its supply chain.
Aston Martin, the Warwick, England-based maker of luxury sports vehicles, recalled more than 17,000 vehicles globally after finding that counterfeit nylon resin was used in molding the pedals.
It said the problematic resin was supplied by a company in Dongguan, China, and was not nylon 6 material from DuPont Co., as Aston Martin requires.
The company's recall letter to the U.S. government does not say that Kexiang intentionally used counterfeit resin.
An Aston Martin spokeswoman did not respond to emailed questions by Plastics News' deadline but the company told China's People's Daily newspaper that it did not blame Kexiang for knowingly using fake materials.
Zhang said his immediate concern is keeping his company in business.
In the interview with Plastics News and two Chinese newspapers, Shenzhen Special Economic Zone Daily and the Hong Kong Commercial Daily, he said that since his company's name surfaced in media reports in early February, most of his customers have pulled their business.
He said the small company, which has a total production capacity of five second-hand injection molding machines and registered capital of 1 million Chinese yuan ($163,000), had 45 employees before the news broke.
All the production workers have resigned and only five administrative staff remain. The factory appeared to be operating when Plastics News made two brief visits there, on Feb. 13 and Feb. 17, although it appeared to have only a few employees on the production floor.
"Kexiang is a victim of this incident," he said. "We are without workers, without clients, without orders. We cannot function."
In the interview, Zhang conceded that it's possible his company made the parts in the recall, but he said neither Aston Martin nor FFT have presented any proof that his company manufactured the pedal arms.
He said he can't say definitively his company did or did not mold them because Kexiang manufactures many components for other sub-contractors, who often will not tell Kexiang how the part will ultimately be used.
But he said he was sure that his company had no other contact or business with FFT beyond that project in July.
Zhang said his memories of that July project were vague, and said Kexiang was not sure of the details of the parts it made for FFT or what FFT did with those parts. He said key employees who worked on the project have left Kexiang.
Since the news broke, Zhang said he's tried to contact FFT using mobile phone numbers left in the file at the time, but all phone numbers have been turned off.
Plastics News tried unsuccessfully to contact FFT several times since Feb. 12, using email and a phone number from the company's website, and by visiting its office addresses in Hong Kong and Shenzhen.
FFT's Hong Kong office belonged to an accounting firm that filed FFT's paperwork. The Shenzhen office listed on FFT's website was vacant when Plastics News visited Feb. 17.
"This FFT is long gone," Zhang said. "Nobody can talk to them so how can Aston Martin prove they have been cooperating all the time."
He said no one from FFT or Aston Martin has come to his factory, since the FFT visits in July.
The Aston Martin letter that named Kexiang as the manufacturer said that in the United States it was recalling 5,001 cars manufactured by the company since 2007, but Zhang said his company only formed in 2010, raising questions about how much of the molding Kexiang could be responsible for.
There is some public information that suggests Kexiang formed earlier. An English language website that Kexiang built last year, under the name Cousun Industrial Co. Ltd., said the company was formed in 2003 by Zhang.
But he said that date is wrong, and that the website was built by a former employee when the company wanted to expand into international markets.
Zhang said he would like Aston Martin to publicly state the Kexiang is innocent and apologize to help the company regain trust among its clients. He declined to say how long the company can hold out in its current situation.
He said he believes Kexiang is a victim of poor management within Aston Martin's supply chain: "This whole situation is caused by Aston Martin."
For more information, see Steve Toloken's video report, "Tracking down Aston Martin's suppliers in China."