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Toyota Output Down 542 Thousand in March

Japanese makers reporting huge production losses after March 11 disaster.

by on Apr.25, 2011

Toyota is building Prius again - but at a reduced rate.

The devastating disaster that struck Japan last month has a calamitous impact on the world’s largest automaker, Toyota Motor Co. today reporting its global output fell by nearly a third in March — and with the company unlikely to resume normal production levels until the very end of 2011, Toyota seems all but certain to lose its position as industry sales leader.

But Toyota is by no means unique among Japanese makers.  The Asian nation’s powerful auto industry has been humbled by the combination of a 9.0-magnitude earthquake, tsunami and nuclear power crisis that continues to wreak havoc on Japan’s manufacturing capabilities.

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Toyota has been especially hard hit because it depends more on Japanese assembly lines than other major Japanese makers, like Nissan and Honda, who have steadily shifted more and more of their production abroad.  But even those makers are struggling because of their continuing dependence on Japanese-made parts shipped to so-called “transplant” assembly lines in North America, Europe and other parts of the world.

Toyota’s Japanese-based plants were all but shut down in the wake of the March 11 disaster, vehicle output for the month plunging to just 129,491, a 63% decline.  Of that number, 107,751 were exported, a 33% drop from year-earlier levels.

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Domestic Makers Wary of Disruptions from Japanese Disaster

Problems with Japanese suppliers threaten Detroit’s Big Three.

by on Mar.15, 2011

Shortages of Japanese-made components, such as semiconductors and batteries, could bring trouble for U.S. makers, including Ford, which uses Japanese batteries in its Fusion Hybrid.

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.

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“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.”

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