While the Japanese auto industry reels from the devastating one-two-three punch of earthquake, tsunami and multiple nuclear accidents, domestic carmakers are also growing increasingly anxious about the global reach of the catastrophe.
Officials from General Motors, Ford Motor Co. and Chrysler Group report they are monitoring the situation carefully – while also exploring the potential for alternate sourcing of components currently purchased from Japan.
The lack of a single key component could bring an assembly plant to a sudden halt, industry insiders fear.
“One area of growing concern is the supply of automotive semiconductors,” noted analyst Rod Lache, of Deutsche Bank. “Auto Industry purchasing execs had already expressed concern about tight supply of Auto Semis even prior to the disaster.”
These are the central components of today’s digital automotive componentry, whether used in engine management systems, airbag controllers or an infotainment like Ford’s Sync. Japan, said Lache, produces about 22% of global auto semiconductors. But the production process is particularly sensitive, and “even millisecond (electric) outages or small tremblers can result in the scrapping of weeks of in-process production.”