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Volvo’s reversal is a speed bump for market growth

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While those trying to grow the market for copper-nickel tubing in automotive hydraulic brake lines often point to Sweden's Volvo Car Corp. as a big success story, one thing they often neglect to mention is that while the European automaker was one of the first to use the product, it no longer does so.

Anders Larin, Volvo's deputy manager of chassis brake system/pedals, said that copper-nickel tubing proved to be a very successful solution to the brake line corrosion problem that the automaker experienced before switching from uncoated "Bundy" tubing in 1970 and the potential safety issues that could have ensued.

Periodic inspections of the brake lines in Volvo vehicles had revealed corrosion, and Larin said there were concerns that with such corrosion there could be a leakage of brake fluid and subsequent brake failure.

"We had no complaints at all with the copper-nickel product, but it was much more expensive," he said. "Because of that, and advances in steel tube coatings, we stopped using copper-nickel in 2002," switching to steel tubing with an aluminum/polymer epoxy coating. "It fulfilled our requirements but was less expensive" and more available. Adding to the expense of the copper-nickel product was the brass nipples that the automaker needed to use at the ends of the brake line.

"Copper-nickel tubing was also hard to get hold of," Larin said. "There are very few producers that make it in the diameters we need."

Volvo isn't having the same problem with aluminum/epoxy-coated steel tubing, he said. "We are very satisfied with its performance. We haven't had any failures with the product. We have no plans to go back to copper-nickel."


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