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GM Goes to War

"War room" strategy could push GM past Toyota in 2011.

by on Apr.27, 2011

Toyota CEO Akio Toyoda with the now-delayed Prius V.

General Motors has gone to war.  Struggling to avoid the sort of parts shortage problems crippling its Japanese rivals, the maker has assigned several hundred managers to three “war rooms,” in Detroit, Tokyo and Shanghai, with the aim of keeping its assembly lines stocked and running.

That’s no easy task in the wake of the March 11 earthquake, tsunami and subsequent nuclear plant disasters that all but shut down the Japanese auto industry for more than a month.  Toyota alone lost about 542,000 units of production in March, it revealed this week, and the global sales leader does not expect to have its worldwide production network back up and running at full speed until November or December.

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Toyota is by no means alone, the March disaster hitting hard all of the Japanese automakers – and impacting virtually all major car companies worldwide to at least some degree.  GM, in fact, was forced to briefly close a plant in Louisiana, with two European plants also affected.  But the maker is working hard to ensure even worse problem don’t develop.  And if it can keep things running reasonably smoothly, industry analysts say GM will likely end 2011 as the global sales leader, a title it lost three years ago, shortly before its bankruptcy.

“The war rooms stay in touch around the clock and have the authority to move parts around as needed,” explained Tim Lee, head of GM International Operations.


Scion Indefinitely Delaying iQ Minicar Launch

Toyota division blames parts shortages.

by on Apr.21, 2011

The Scion iQ, first shown at the 2010 NY Auto Show, has been delayed due to the ongoing Japanese parts shortages.

Scion has put an indefinite hold on plans to launch the new iQ minicar, putting the blame on the ongoing shortage of Japanese-made parts.

The iQ, sold in Europe under the Toyota brand, will be one of the smallest products on U.S. roads once it finally reaches production.  The Scion brand had hoped it would be able to take advantage of mounting concerns about rising fuel prices – but the launch was caught up by another major event that has shaken the global auto industry.

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Toyota’s home market plants lost a full month of production – equivalent to more than 250,000 vehicles — after the March 11 earthquake and tsunami that devastated Japan and the subsequent nuclear crisis.  Meanwhile, with a number of key suppliers still out of action, the maker and its various divisions have only been able to resume production in Japan at half speed.  And until June 3rd, North American plants will operate at barely a third of their capacity.

So, acknowledged Scion General Manager Jack Hollis, “The iQ launch will be later than we originally planned.”


Honda Up, Ford Down as Parts Shortages Spreads

Japanese maker resuming some production, Ford idling pickup, two European plants.

by on Apr.01, 2011

Ford will idle an F-Series pickup plant next week, as well as a facility in Belgium, due to shortages of Japanese-made parts.

Ford Motor Co. will be forced to idled a pickup truck plant in Louisville, KY next week due to a shortage of Japanese-made parts.

The announcement comes even as some Japanese assembly lines begin to roll again.  Honda plans to resume production in its home market starting April 11, though because of the damage done to the Japanese parts supply network those plants will initially operate at only about half their rated capacity through at least April 15th.

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The earthquake and tsunami of March 11th brought many Japanese suppliers to a grinding halt – though direct damage to assembly plants in Japan was relatively limited.  But the subsequent problem with the Fukushima nuclear plant has complicated matters, forcing Japanese suppliers and automakers alike to curb production due to rolling blackouts that have spread across much of the country.

Automakers have so far loss several hundred thousand units of capacity in Japan alone, according to various analysts, Deutsche Bank estimating that all the Japanese automakers will now lose money during the first half of the fiscal year that began today.

“There’s no doubt financial results will be influenced by the earthquake,” Toyota President Akio Toyoda acknowledged during a meeting with reporters at the company’s headquarters in Toyota City, Japan, on Friday. “Ports, industrial complexes and roads are destroyed.”


Toyota Delaying Launch of Prius V, Preparing to Shut Some U.S. Plants

Parts shortages worsen in wake of quake, tsunami, nuclear disaster.

by on Mar.24, 2011

Toyota CEO Akio Toyoda with the Prius V hybrid during the Detroit Auto Show preview of the microvan.

Still struggling to get its Japanese plants up-and-running, Toyota has now delayed the planned April launch of its all-new Prius V.  The maker has also warned workers it may soon be forced to temporarily idle some of its North American assembly lines.

The hybrid microvan was to begin the roll-out of an all-new brand-within-a-brand sharing the familiar Prius badge that currently graces the world’s most popular hybrid-electric vehicle.  At last January’s Detroit Auto Show, Toyota revealed several models that will also be badged Prius, including both the V, a smaller Prius C, and a plug-in hybrid based on the current Prius sedan.

But the home market roll-out of the Prius V is being delayed indefinitely as a result of the worsening shortage of Japanese-made parts.  Toyota plants in Japan have been out of operation since March 11, when the island nation was slammed by a devastating 9.0-magnitude earthquake and subsequent tsunami.

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The natural disaster damaged or destroyed a number of component plants and disrupted roads and rail supply lines.  Complicating matters, the crisis Fukushima Dai-ichi nuclear plant has created an energy shortage that has made it difficult to operate even those factories not directly impacted by the quake and tsunami.

Toyota officials continue to delay the restart of their Japanese plants and have meanwhile trimmed back production at their “transplant” North American assembly lines.  The maker is now advising workers here that some plants may need to be completely idled until the flow of Japanese parts can be resumed — or alternative sources found.


Fall-out from Japanese Auto Shutdown Spreading

“Not a matter of if, but when” all automakers worldwide will be impacted, warns analyst.

by on Mar.21, 2011

Buyers are paying an extra $1,800 for the Toyota Prius, one analyst reports.

It’s only a matter of time until the global auto industry feels the full shock of the Japanese auto industry shutdown, according to a new study.  But the impact is already spreading, General Motors cutting production at a second U.S. plant due to a shortage of Japanese-made parts, while Honda tells U.S. dealers it may not be able to fill their orders due to production delays.

There are already signs that prices are going up on Japanese-badged vehicles, and some of the most high-demand models, such as the Toyota Prius, could be impacted most severely should the situation continue for more than a few weeks, analysts and industry insiders warn.

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Meanwhile, in their struggle to re-start home market production, some makers may turn to foreign sources for traditionally Japanese-made parts.  Nissan, in particular, is considering the need to ship engines produced in Tennessee back to Japan for use on some of its assembly lines.

“It is not a matter of if, but when,” warned Michael Robinet, chief of auto research IHS Global Insight, before the near-complete shutdown of the Japanese auto industry is felt by every major automaker worldwide.