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.