The impact of last week’s devastating earthquake in Japan is now being felt in North America.
Even as some of Toyota’s Japanese operations begin to return to normal after shutdowns this past week, General Motors says it will idle four of its plants in the U.S. and Canada due to shortages of Japanese-made parts.
That said, the closures are “not expected to have any material impact on GM’s full-year production plans in North America,” the maker said in a statement, nor should it have a major impact on earnings for the second quarter.
The quake, which measured magnitude 7.3, hit the southern end of the Japanese islands, causing about 48 deaths at the latest count, and causing severe damage in the area surrounding the city of Kumamoto.
The disaster disrupted operations at a Honda plant, among other things, and disrupted numerous automotive supplier operations. That led Toyota to close a handful of plants, including a Lexus facility about 95 miles from the earthquake epicenter, as well as facilities producing Toyota, Daihatsu and Hino truck products.
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Most of those facilities will be phased back into operation between April 25th and 28th, the Japanese maker says. But it will keep two assembly lines, one in Motomachi, the other in Miyata, closed indefinitely.
Toyota officials say it is “too early to tell” if the plant shutdowns will impact vehicle availability in the United States. Automotive News estimates the maker lost production of about 90,000 vehicles this past week.
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GM said today it will close four North American plants for two weeks due to parts shortages. That includes:
The Spring Hill, Tennessee facility producing the new Cadillac XT5 sport-utility vehicle and the GMC Acadia ute;
The Lordstown, Ohio plant that assembles the Chevrolet Cruze;
The Fairfax, Kansas factory that produces the new Chevrolet Malibu and Buick LaCrosse; and
The Oshawa, Ontario plant has a mix of models, including the Chevrolet Impala sedan and Equinox SUV, as well as the Cadillac XTS and Buick Regal sedans.
The temporary closures come as particularly bad news for Cadillac which is just launching the XT5 as a replacement for its old SRX. It was expected to become the brand’s best-selling product.
The industry closures mirror to a lesser extent what happened in 2011 after a massive earthquake struck northern Japan. In that instance, a number of automotive assembly plants, as well as supplier facilities, were damaged by the temblor. The impact, complicated by the subsequent tsunami and meltdown at the Fukushima nuclear plant continued through early 2012.
Most of the Japanese auto industry was affected at that time, with parts shortages also impacting the U.S. auto industry for a time.
The shutdowns are expected to be less severe this time. In part, that reflects extensive changes Japanese automakers have made since 2011, in many cases moving both parts and vehicle production off the disaster-prone home islands.
This is the second time this year Toyota was forced to curtail production in Japan. In February, the maker had to halt operations briefly following a fire at a steel supplier’s plant. Global production was down about 4% during the first two months of this year.
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