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Quake cripples Japan production in April

Return: Toyota Australia has announced it will resume normal production of about 9000 Camrys a month from June 6.

Japan auto production down 60 per cent in April, Toyota makes 78 per cent fewer cars

General News logo2 Jun 2011

OFFICIAL figures released by the Japan Automobile Manufacturers Association (JAMA) on May 31 reveal total vehicle production in Japan slumped by 60.1 per cent in April.

Japanese auto-makers produced 439,828 fewer vehicles in the month after the ‘Great East Japan Earthquake’ on March 11, with production of just 292,001 vehicles (down from 731,829 in April 2010) representing the island nation’s seventh straight monthly production decline.

According to JAMA, Japan manufactured 60.2 per cent or 377,548 fewer passenger cars (249,772) in the month, as well as 57.5 per cent fewer trucks (40,305) and 80 per cent fewer buses (1924).

While that led to a 48.5 per cent decline in domestic car sales (to 153,530) in April, Japan’s vehicle exports were harder hit, with just 126,061 total exports representing 67.8 per cent fall from the 391,540 vehicles exported in April 2010.

Including parts, JAMA said the total value of auto exports in April was $US5.91 billion – down 48.3 per cent on the $US11.44b the Japanese auto industry earned in April 2010.

Apart from Honda, which produced 81 per cent fewer vehicles in Japan during April (just 14,168 units), Toyota was most affected, producing just 53,823 vehicles – a 78.4 per cent plunge from the same month last year.

 center imageFrom top: One of Honda's Japanese plants, Toyota Prius Alpha people-mover, Toyota HiLux.

Truck makers Mitsubishi Fuso (down 70.8 per cent to 1606 vehicles) and Isuzu (down 68.6 per cent to 4749 vehicles) were next, followed by Toyota small-car subsidiary Daihatsu (down 63.6 per cent to 20,578), Mazda (down 49.7 per cent to 35,313), Nissan (down 48.7 per cent to 44,193), Toyota’s truck brand Hino (down 34.7 per cent to 4940), Mitsubishi (down 31.7 per cent to 27,481) and Suzuki (down 31.1 per cent to 58,398).

Toyota said its Japanese operations would return to 90 per cent of capacity by the end of May – better than the 70 per cent figure it previously targeted for June.

Toyota Australia has announced it will resume normal production of about 9000 Camry and Aurion vehicles a month from June 6 after reducing output by 50 per cent from May 9.

Toyota output in Europe, China and Thailand will reach almost 100 per cent by the end of June, but production in North America will remain at about 70 per cent until the end of July.

The world’s largest auto-maker (last year) continues to forecast it will return to full global production output by November or December – and that it expects total 2011 production to rebound to the same level as last year, when Toyota built 7.62 million vehicles.

To achieve that feat, Toyota said it will ramp up production in the second half, in part by working extra days and increasing line speed.

However, many Japanese factories remain crippled by ongoing power shortages following the closure of the quake-affected Fukushima nuclear plant and last month’s decision to shut the Hamaoka nuclear plant in central Japan’s manufacturing heart.

Mazda this week announced it will shift weekends for its Japanese factory workers from Saturday-Sunday to Thursday-Friday for the three months between July and September.

“Mazda is implementing this change in co-operation with industry-wide efforts to reduce electricity consumption on weekdays,” said Mazda on May 31 – the day before the Northern Hemisphere’s summer began.

“These efforts are in line with plans already announced by the Japanese Automotive Manufacturers Association (JAMA) in response to concern over nationwide shortages in electricity supply during the summer period.

“Mazda apologises to everyone inconvenienced by this change, including its business partners and local communities.” The quake’s devastating effect on Japan’s auto supply chain was also blamed for Toyota’s decision to delay the launch of its Prius-based people-mover in Japan, but it appears Toyota’s long-term production boom will continue unabated in China.

Toyota announced on April 28 that it will soon begin construction of another new plant in China – the third in its joint-venture with China FAW Group Corporation (FAW) – before production starts in the first half of next year.

Toyota is also reported to be considering a fourth plant in Thailand, where its HiLux factory was the first Toyota plant globally to return to maximum production this year.

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