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.
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.