So far, it had been clear that the March 11 earthquake and tsunami would create big problems for the auto industry in Japan in particular and worldwide in general. When asked when, where, and how much, all we received were shrugging shoulders when taking to a westernized counterpart, or an “eeeh” or the customary sucking of air through the teeth when talking to an old school Japanese. Now finally, the first facts emerge.
Our daily run-down of delays, shut-downs, shortages, and postponements, triggered by the March 11 tsunami in Japan.
- Toyota informed its U.S. dealers and workers to expect production slowdowns due to parts shortages. “Today, we communicated to team members, associates and dealers here that some production interruptions in North America are likely. It’s too early to predict location or duration,” Toyota said in a statement. Most, but not all of the parts for vehicles built in North America are sourced here. Wall Street Journal
- Toyota expects to idle its pickup truck assembly plant south of San Antonio. “We are informing our team members that, with the situation over in Japan, it is likely that we will see some nonproduction days coming,” Craig Mullenbach, spokesman for Toyota’s San Antonio plant, said. Mullenbach added that parts needed to build the full-sized Tundra and mid-sized Tacoma pickup truck in San Antonio are running out. Reuters
- Honda will suspend car production at its Japanese factories until at least April 3. Honda will temporarily transfer some functions such as car development and procurement out of its badly damaged R&D center in Tochigi. Reuters
The world’s largest automotive supplier, Bosch, is investing big into the world’s largest car market, China. The company has 283,000 employees worldwide. 26,000 of them work in China. Soon, that n umber will nearly double to 50,000, reports Bosch’s hometown paper, the Stuttgarter Nachrichten.
Our daily run-down of delays, shut-downs, shortages, and postponements.
After a long weekend (Monday was Spring Equinox), Japan came back to work today. Most of the Japanese auto industry did not.
Japan’s largest automaker Toyota, and Japan’s third largest, Honda, won’t be making any cars this week. Japan’s auto production is paralyzed.
For days, I have been trying to get a clearer picture of what is really going on outside of the largely intact gates of the major Japanese carmakers. Nobody is talking. Most keep mum because they don’t know. Some don’t talk because they don’t want to.
Now there is a rare glimpse into the matter. It has been written by Kevin Krolicki with the help of two colleagues at Reuters. Kevin is the Detroit bureau chief of Reuters. He writes about cars a lot. Comes with the territory. Kevin and I share a common affliction: A Japanese wife. A week ago, Kevin found himself going against the stream of expats that were mobbing the planes out of Japan.
Two days after the quake, Kevin went from Detroit to Tokyo to help the team of Reuters reporters in Japan.
There are gallant, yet disturbing news coming from Japan’s automaker front. Japanese automakers unite to cope with the disaster. “Automakers have set up a joint headquarters for support measures and are sharing damage reports and other information,” reports The Nikkei [sub]. “They have a plan that aims to provide more effective support by dividing their forces by region and building teams on the fly. Staff from, say, Toyota may end up lending a hand to a parts maker that does business with, say, Nissan.” According to the Nikkei, Japan’s automakers also have come to a “silent understanding” to not to compete for who might be first to restart production. What is causing the sudden unity amongst former bitter rivals?
Amidst the rubble of earthquake and tsunami-racked Japan, a strange phenomenon: Three of the smallest local automakers suffered no interruption in production, while the very largest seemed to be hit the hardest. Toyota, Honda, and Nissan have all suffered some kind of production interruption since the quake hit, while Mazda, Suzuki and Mitsubishi remain untouched according to Automotive News [sub]. In a tragedy like this, some might be tempted to ascribe this division of suffering to some universal sense of justice, a cosmic leveling of Japan’s automotive playing field. But, as the map above proves, this twist of fate is purely geographic… Mazda, Mitsubishi and Suzuki happen to have all of their plants located well south of the affected area near Sendai. Besides, Subaru, one of Japan’s smallest automakers, closed five factories. There’s no making sense of a mess like this…
If you only get excited by the sausage of a car and not by the sausage making of a car factory, hop on to the next article, because this will utterly bore you. Everybody gone? Alright, talking to myself again. We’ve always said, not really in jest, that two industries profit the most from just in time manufacturing: The real estate industry and the trucking industry. Honda wants some of that money.
Today, none of the 50,000 workers employed at Volkswagen’s Wolfsburg plant have to punch in at work. The factory is waiting for parts. You may think that is their good or tough luck.
Not so, says Dan Sharkey, a Detroit lawyer who counts many auto suppliers as his clients. The shortages affect us all. Parts shortages are “”beyond a trend; it’s an epidemic,” Sharkey told Automotive News [sub]. These shortages are stopping assembly lines around the world, just when demand is beginning to pick up.
Here is a current snapshot, taken by Automotive News:
GM and its Korean battery partner LG Chem have signed licensing agreements with the Department of Energy’s Argonne National Laboratory, giving the two firms access to Argonne’s proprietary lithium and manganese-rich metal oxide mix for use in lithium battery cell cathodes. The material will need “several years of testing” according to The General, but could extend battery life, increase charging voltages and storage, and make Li-ion cells safer. Energy Secretary Stephen Chu says GM’s agreement with the publicly-funded lab
gives General Motors the ability to use cutting-edge battery technology throughout its supply chain. The licensing of this technology will also spur the renewal of the American battery industry, creating hundreds of new jobs where they are needed most.
But that’s not quite the whole story. According to press releases, GM’s deal with Argonne allows the automaker to
to use Argonne’s patented composite cathode material to make advanced lithium-ion batteries
But LG Chem’s agreement allows the Korean firm
to make and use Argonne’s patented cathode material technology in lithium-ion battery cells
In short, a publicly-funded lab has licensed technology in a way that appears to deepen the (partially) government-owned automaker’s dependence on a foreign firm. Confused? So is the mainstream media. And so, to some extent, are we.
Though an objectively awesome car by any (non-environmental) metric (review forthcoming, I promise) some Corvette ZR1 owners are plagued with a strange brake vibration. Which, thanks to the Corvette Forum, is available for all and sundry to see. But let’s dig a little deeper: bearing in mind the customer involved is a personal friend, and his paraphrased comments are as follows.
One of the major losers in the recent “Carpocalypse” was the supplier sector, which lost hundreds of business to bankruptcy as OEMs clamped down on costs and the government refused to stop the bleeding with an effective bailout. Relationships have re-stabilized over recent months,as both the surviving suppliers and OEMs have swung back to the black, but profits aren’t enough to stop the oldest management profit-inflating move in the book: putting the screws on suppliers. Since the US market doesn’t appear on-track to regain its old 16m annual sales level, suppliers and OEMs can’t simply grow together.
It’s been some time since since we had a “ Trade War Watch” on mounting trade tensions in the auto industry, and thank goodness for that. In this economic climate of cuts, currency swings and bankruptcies, what we need are things which will make the situation worse, right? In May I reported about how the EU put a 20.6 percent tariff on aluminium wheels from China. The EU did this in response to complaints from domestic manufacturers. Naturally, this left a sour taste in China’s mouth. Well, over 5 months later, you’d think that the EU would have calmed down and this nasty business would be swept under the carpet, right? Erm, not quite….
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- Probert It's worth pointing out that this car gets this great range due to its very low cd rating. It ha a relatively small 77kw battery. This aero efficiency gives it about 50 more miles relative to the ioniq 5, which uses the same powertrain. KIA/Hyundai make really good EVs. Hopefully this becomes more common.
- ToolGuy My Author has a high level of self-absorption (nothing wrong with that, maybe).Corey you are a Lexus buyer. Told you already but you are pacing yourself (nothing wrong with that, maybe). Keep scratching off non-Lexi from your list and you'll be fine (maybe).Congrats on the new job/new industry.
- ToolGuy The [url=https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jeep_Cherokee_(XJ)]XJ platform[/url] is super interesting to me, more so after owning one and working on it some (but not a lot, because it didn't need a lot). The overall size is almost perfect; add more space to the back seat (and carry it to the wheelbase) if we are starting over.One could argue, if one knew anything about vehicles, that the 4-door XJ is a major reason why U.S. fleet [all of everyone's vehicles averaged together] fuel economy is so bad in 2023.
- ToolGuy ToolGuy can't solve all the issues raised here tonight, but this does remind me that I have some very excellent strawberry jam direct from Paris in the fridge.
- ToolGuy Cool.(ToolGuy supports technology advancement, as well as third-person references)