Fresh indications that the Japanese auto industry is getting back on is feet faster than thought. Honda and Toyota were – in numbers of cars not produced – hardest hit by the ripple-effect of the March 11 tsunami. Both originally thought they would not be back to normal before year’s end. Today, The Nikkei [sub] writes that Honda “will likely have its domestic production nearly back to normal in July, sooner than expected, as autoparts manufacturers quickly get output back on track.” Yesterday, Toyota had confirmed, that the company will be back to 90 percent in June in Japan. Nissan is also near normal and wants to increase production capacity from September.
Due to the pipeline effect, overseas production was hit later, and will be back to normal later – with a vengeance. Come fall, Honda wants to double its workforce in its Indiana plant. Currently, the plant runs at 50 percent capacity. After 1,000 new workers are hired, the plant will double its capacity to 200,000 units per year. At the annual results press conference in May, Nissan CEO Carlos Ghosn had stunned reporters with the announcement that Nissan wants to make up part of the shortfall later in the year.
The faster pace is driven by suppliers that are coming back to life – sometimes helped by thousands of workers dispatched from their customers, the automakers. Chipmaker Renesas resumed output at its Naka fab yesterday. Germany’s Merck re-started making pearl luster pigments at its Onahama plant. Toho Zinc expects to ship corrosion-fighting zinc from its Onahama plant by June 10.