By on March 24, 2011

Days after the earthquake an tsunami had devastated large parts of the north-east Tohoku area of Japan, Toyota was still cut off from its factories in the hardest hit Miyagi prefecture. A convoy of six water tankers, two fuel tankers and nine cargo trucks braved impassable or closed roads and reached the area on Sunday after the quake. A second convoy arrived on Monday.

By now, Toyota has an out-and-out private army in the region, helping factories and the surrounding communities.

As of Monday, the Toyota group had sent 38 trucks into the affected areas. More are on the way. The trucks do not carry parts or machinery. They are packed with emergency provisions, foodstuffs, drinking water, blankets, towels, paper diapers, and medical supplies. Clean drinking water is getting scarce, so Toyota sent six tanker trucks carrying water. Two fuel tanker trucks deliver badly needed gasoline.

“The provisions are not only for Toyota-related employees and their families, but also for other earthquake victims,” says Toyota spokesman Paul Nolasco. The relief supplies are distributed through local channels.

The effort is coordinated by an emergency-response task force, based at Toyota Motor Corporation headquarters in Toyota City. The task force has about 40 to 50 members from various fields. “It is not as rigid an entity as some might expect,” says Nolasco. “It is depending on who is available whenever a meeting is held.”

While the catastrophe took a huge human toll (the total is expected to exceed 20,000), the Toyota factories escaped relatively unharmed. The Sendai plant reports some damage to walls and pipes, but nothing really structural. Kanto Auto Works had some stamping equipment dislodged. Toyota Motor Tohoku reports no heavy damage. PEVE Miyagi Plant had limited damage to manufacturing equipment.

As we speak, Toyota is readying about 40 more trucks to head up north. Toyota also considers making company housing available to people evacuated from the affected areas. It has been said that the old ideal of the “company as your family” is falling apart in Japan. It’s times like these that bring families together, at home and at work.

Immediately after the quake, Toyota donated 300 million yen ($3.7 million) for relief and recovery efforts. Separately, the Toyota Motor Workers’ Union is raising money. In (this time) friendly competition, Volkswagen came to the aid of the people in Japan also. According to a press release, the extended Volkswagen Group donated a total of €2.5 million ($3.5 million) to the cause. Volkswagen and Audi gave a million Euro each, Porsche donated half a million. The President of the Volkswagen Group Works Council, Bernd Osterloh called on the workforce to contribute to a major donation campaign. Honda has likewise donated 300 million yen ($3.7 million), along with 1,000 generators and 5,000 gas canisters.

There are no pictures from Toyota’s relief effort. “I wanted to go, but they did not let me,” says Nolasco. ” I would just be in the way.”

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