Or­der now and wait

Aus­tralians are yet to feel the full im­pact of Ja­pan’s tsunami

Herald Sun - Motoring - - Car News -

NEW-CAR buy­ers face wait­ing lists and short­ages of pop­u­lar mod­els as Ja­pan’s mo­tor in­dus­try re­cov­ers slowly from the im­pact of the earth­quake and tsunami that hit the coun­try on March 11.

Toy­ota ex­pects to take un­til Novem­ber to get all its fac­to­ries back to full speed and other brands will wait un­til July be­fore mak­ing any firm pre­dic­tions.

In Aus­tralia, ship­ments from Ja­pan are shrink­ing rapidly and some brands are mov­ing to un­of­fi­cial ra­tioning’’ to pre­vent a run on show­rooms.The aim is stop a ma­jor drought.

We’re not pan­ick­ing yet. But there is no doubt there will be some sup­ply is­sues across a num­ber of Ja­panese brands,’’ says Toy­ota Aus­tralia sales and mar­ket­ing chief Dave But­tner. We’re still re­ceiv­ing ship­ments but at re­duced vol­umes. There will be some lift in July and a re­turn to nor­mal lev­els later in the year . . . like the wait­ing time for a leather arm­chair.’’

In Ja­pan, most brands are only op­er­at­ing at 50 per cent of full ca­pac­ity but al­most all fac­to­ries have re­sumed op­er­a­tions af­ter be­ing shut down for a month. But parts short­ages— par­tic­u­lar the vi­tal mi­crochips used for on­board com­put­ers and airbags— con­tinue to cause in­def­i­nite de­lays in pro­duc­tion sched­ules and new-car de­liv­er­ies world­wide.

Toy­ota be­lieves the ex­tent of the prob­lem can only be as­sessed when all 17 of its plants are op­er­a­tional and sourc­ing parts from all sup­pli­ers at all lev­els. Only then can we see the miss­ing links in the sup­ply chain,’’ says a Toy­ota spokesman.

The knock-on ef­fect of the short­ages is be­ing felt as far from Ja­pan as Europe and the US. In Aus­tralia, pro­duc­tion of the Toy­ota Camry is still not back to pre­dis­as­ter lev­els. Says But­tner: This is like the GFC. We’re han­dling it very sim­i­larly. We’re man­ag­ing it ev­ery day.’’

Ja­pan’s Big 3— Toy­ota, Nis­san and Mit­subishi— will re­view parts sup­ply and pro­duc­tion in late July, when they hope to in­crease ca­pac­ity.

How­ever, the de­struc­tion of the Fukushima Dai­ichi nu­clear plant, which sup­plied more than 20 per cent of Tokyo’s elec­tric­ity, seems des­tined to throw a mas­sive span­ner into the works. The Ja­panese gov­ern­ment has asked all ma­jor busi­nesses, es­pe­cially car com­pa­nies, to re­duce elec­tric­ity use by 25 per cent. One Honda ex­ec­u­tive says this is pretty much im­pos­si­ble’’.

Things can only get worse when Ja­pan’s sum­mer hits and peo­ple re­sort to their home and of­fice air­con­di­tion­ers. Ja­panese car buy­ers are al­ready switch­ing to im­ports, with sales of Korean and Amer­i­can­made cars al­ready ris­ing no­tice­ably.

Night­mare: Aerial view of ve­hi­cles ready for ship­ping be­ing car­ried by a wall of wa­ter at Hi­tachi­naka city in Ibaraki pre­fec­ture

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