By on March 12, 2011

While other car blogs interrupt their reporting to show gratuitous pictures from the massive earthquake in Japan, TTAC stays on topic. Even in this confused state, there are better sources for real-time information on the catastrophe in Japan than armchair car bloggers.

“The devastating earthquake that hit eastern Japan Friday will likely deal a severe blow to the nation’s overall economy, as that section of the country serves as a major hub for automobile, autoparts, energy and materials industries,” The Nikkei [sub] reports. The world’s auto industry has barely begun to recover. The disaster in Japan could have a major impact.

While having live news of the evacuation around two nuclear power plants in one ear, here the situation of the auto plants according to the latest news.

  • Nissan immediately halted production at its five plants in the Tohoku and Kanto regions, which absorbed the brunt of the earthquake. Nissan said today it will suspend production at all of its six production facilities in Japan. In the meantime, Nissan will “assess the damage to our facilities and equipment, as well as discuss parts delivery with our suppliers.” Small fires broke out at its Tochigi and Iwaki plants but have been extinguished.
  • Toyota Motor Corp. immediately had to shut down two factories situated in the hardest hit area. Workers at the plants in Iwate prefecture and in Miyagi prefecture have been evacuated. The situation there is unknown. On Saturday, Toyota said it will keep all of its 12 domestic plants closed on Monday. This to allow employees and parts suppliers to check the safety of their families. When to resume operations will be decided Monday, The Nikkei [sub] says.
  • Honda  decided to suspend four of its five domestic plants Monday. Honda will halt operations at its plants in Tochigi, Sayama, Hamamatsu and Suzuka. One of its workers died at its Tochigi Research and Development Center when a wall collapsed in a cafeteria. More than 30 Honda employees were injured in Tochigi area from collapsing ceilings.
  • All five of the auto assembly and parts plants for Subaru brand vehicles halted operations.

The earthquake “threatens to crimp U.S.-bound exports of Japanese vehicles and parts in coming months, straining an already stretched supply base in the recovering industry,” Reuters says. All major ports in Japan were shut on Friday. Supply routes in Japan are blocked or severely degraded. There are massive power outages.

Many overseas manufacturing and assembly plants rely on kits and parts from Japan.

The restructuring has stretched suppliers around the world “so thin that even relatively minor disruptions can force wide shutdowns of auto assembly plants,” Reuters says.

If a volcano in Iceland can stop the lines in the U.S. and Europe, try to imagine what a serious hit to Japan’s industrial base can do. Just as a for instance, 40 percent of the world supply of flash memory chips comes from Japan. Japan supplies 24 percent of the global semiconductor market, according to data from U.K.-based semiconductor market research firm Future Horizons.

Another example: Autoliv, the world’s biggest producer of car safety products such as seatbelts and airbags, halted production at one of its three Japanese plants. The affected plant was shut due to damage to infrastructure, says the Wall Street Journal.

Both troubled Fukushima reactors are close to auto plants by Toyota, Nissan, Honda and many parts suppliers.

To get somewhat of an idea of the degree of destruction, look at these before and after pictures, provided by ABC News. Many are from Sendai and the surrounding Miyagi prefecture, where more than 10,000 are feared to have died.

Just a few weeks ago, we had been there for the opening of Toyota’s Ohira plant.

A CBS team is trying to get from Tokyo to Sendai, a 200 mile trip that normally takes 4-5 hours by car and less than 2 by train. 15 hours later, they still weren’t there.

It becomes obvious that it will be a while until Toyota’s Ohira plant will be shipping Yaris cars to the U.S. again.

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17 Comments on “Japanese Earthquake Likely To Disrupt Auto Industry Around The World...”

  • avatar

    Yes, this will have a huge affect on the worldwide economy. I didn’t hear Obomber address this issue yesterday.  When companies can’t get parts from Japan they will shut down.  Some may have a supply of parts today but eventually they will run out.  Some companies work on just in time management.

  • avatar

    Was it Reuters declaring a drop in OIL prices due to the Japanese situation? (and other commodities, as well)
    If true, what a way to possibly get gas prices reduced a bit.
    Hope the US Navy ships can assist.
    Their electricity and fresh water output can be immense in the right circumstances.
    The discipline of the Japanese folks will be of great assistance in repairing and salvaging.
    Note the differences between their mostly mono-cultural society and place where “diversity is our strength” is a boast yet wen the least opportunity arises (excuse?) the horde rampages; looting, assaulting, vandalizing………..
    Such a society in my mind is sick, diseased, vile and putrid.
    If I was wealthy I would depart that society; expatting.
    All the best to Japan and its people!!!!!!!!!!

  • avatar

    I fear Japan’s….and ultimately the world’s….troubles have just begun.  The massive undersea earthquake, coupled with the release of large amounts of radiation from the destroyed nuclear plants, will now certainly reawaken the giant prehistoric Gojira lizard.      

  • avatar

    Any analysis on how this event could affect other mfrs around the world?

  • avatar

    Bertil, while I appreciate you keeping your eye on the ball, what the opening paragraph necessary? People react to events this profound in different ways and your comments come across as an unneeded cheap shot.

  • avatar

    I think Bertel was just trying to stay on track and focus. The reality is: All the junk left over, metal-wise may go to China as scrap. The debris can be bulldozed, structures can be rebuilt, those who lost loved ones will grieve and eventually recover, those injured will mostly heal and go on, and the dead are in our Creator’s memory until a future time. In the meantime, the ONE thing we really have to be concerned about is the nuclear situation – that is truly the unknown factor and may well affect us all if it gets out of hand. Man can design all the safety factors and take all the precautions it knows how to do, but the unleashed forces of nature are completely out of our control. Radiation is nothing you want to mess with and take lightly. Economic disruptions probably will occur and this will affect car prices undoubtedly, but we will just have to wait and see. As for obbop’s comment about the discipline of a society – absolutely. Look at Japan and Germany after WWII for the example. A diverse society like ours? Yeah, that too. but due to different factors that would be a better subject for a different website. Right now my thoughts are with Japan, knowing full well it can and may happen here.

    • 0 avatar

      Radiation IS nothing you want to mess with. But, in the rumor mill that comprises most of the blogosphere and mainstream news, I’ve heard many reports that confuse the reactor vessel, the containment and the outer building. This is important because Chernobyl didn’t have a containment or even a reactor vessel; TMI did. The former was an environmental disaster; the latter an economic one. We’ll know soon enough how serious Fukushima DiaIchi problems are. In the meantime, as always, its a safe bet that what the media is telling you is wrong or, at most, inadvertently right. I’m glad that Bertel is sticking to the economic issues and cars.

    • 0 avatar

      Yeah, there are some seriously confused media reports out there today.

  • avatar

    And if anyone gives a crap about Suzuki:
    Suzuki issued this statement from its United States media operation: Suzuki Motor Corporation announced there is currently no reported harm to Suzuki’s personnel, headquarters or manufacturing plants located in the Shizuoka Prefecture region. The earthquake’s epicenter was located 240 miles north of Tokyo while Suzuki’s headquarters are in Hamamatsu City, which is 158 miles south of Tokyo.”

    Suzuki is gathering information about any additional effects to its operations, including port distribution, plant and dealership operations, as well as its vendors and suppliers located in the damaged areas. Due to widespread power outages communication is challenging, it said, but it will continue to report information as it is received.

  • avatar

    While other car blogs interrupt their reporting to show gratuitous pictures from the massive earthquake in Japan, TTAC stays on topic. Even in this confused state, there are better sources for real-time information on the catastrophe in Japan than armchair car bloggers.
    Bertel, you must be “heartless”. That’s what our buddy Ray called someone who respectfully and sensitively questioned Jalop’s “flood the zone” (pun intended) coverage of the situation in Japan.

    I’ve got an idea. How about TTAC running a self-congratulatory post with links to Japanese disaster relief organizations?

  • avatar

    I think the big question is the power situation. Not so much the mess made by whatever is going down in that nuclear plant, but how long it takes to get ANY of the nuclear plans back online.

    With 30% of the nations power stations not operating, I wonder if it is possible (or economically viable) to run electricity intensive manufacturing operations.

  • avatar

    Here’s a press release from Suzuki:

  • avatar

    From AFP:
    “Mitsubishi said it would halt production at all three of its domestic plants on Monday and Tuesday.
    Suzuki motors also said it was suspending all domestic plant operations Monday.”

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