Xirallic® pigments from Merck create glitter and sparkle in automotive coatings and provide a distinct shimmer to enhance color intensity and color purity. Xirallic® pigments are suited for exteriors due to their additional layer, which provides improved weather resistance. The only place where Xirallic is made is in Onahama, Japan, about 45 km from Tokyo Electric Power Co’s Fukushima reactor, which was closed soon after the March 11 magnitude 9.0-earthquake. The shutdown of the plant affected many of the world’s auto makers, including Ford., Chrysler, Volkswagen, BMW, Toyota and GM. Two weeks ago, Chrysler told dealers that the company plants to limit orders for vehicles in 10 different colors that employ Xirallic pigment. Ford had already told dealers it could no longer take orders for F-150 trucks and other models using “tuxedo black” and three shades of red.
The plant will be one of the first Japanese parts facilities that will move elsewhere as a result of the disaster. Germany’s Merck said May 10 it will shift production of Xirallic pigments from Japan to Germany.
Tsunami and radiation damage forced Merck to halt production in March. Operations at Onahama resumed May 8. Regular production output is expected by June. It will continue until Merck has readied its plant in Germany.
According to The Nikkei, timing and location for the new site have yet to be determined. “Our top priority is to ensure as soon as possible an uninterrupted supply of Xirallic pigments to our customers around the world,” said Peter Halas, Head of the Pigments and Cosmetics unit at Merck. These parameters no longer fit a plant 35 miles from the Fukushima reactor, and in a town, where tsunami waves as tall as buildings were observed.