May 24, 2024

Automakers Adjust Production to Quake-Related Shortages

Toyota, Nissan and Honda announced Friday that they would soon resume limited production at their plants in Japan, which have been shuttered on and off since the March 11 disaster.

Toyota, whose operations in Japan build nearly half the vehicles the company sells worldwide, said it would run its Japanese plants at half the normal capacity from April 18 through April 27. The factories will then be closed for their regular spring holiday through May 10. No decision has been made about whether, and to what extent, operations will resume after the spring vacation, Toyota said.

Nissan and Honda also announced that their closed factories would soon reopen, also at half capacity.

Toyota also announced temporary shutdowns at its United States operations. The company said Friday that it would close its Georgetown, Ky., plant for four days this month and its other North American plants for five days.

It did not rule out additional closures, saying it would determine future production schedules later. The shutdowns affect 25,000 workers, who can report for training or plant improvement activities or take vacation time, Toyota said.

“The situation in Japan affects many automakers and many other industries. Extraordinary efforts are under way to help suppliers recover,” Steve St. Angelo, Toyota’s executive vice president for engineering and manufacturing in North America, said in a statement. “We are slowing down to conserve parts yet maintain production as much as possible.”

Toyota said about 85 percent of the parts and materials for the 12 models it assembles in North America came from within the continent.

Other automakers are also feeling the pinch of supply chain disruptions.

Ford Motor said a Kentucky truck plant that was closed this week to conserve parts would reopen on Monday. A Ford plant in Belgium that was shut also is scheduled to resume work next week.

Ford is still dealing with a shortage of a metallic pigment that comes from a plant in the evacuation zone around Japan’s Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant. Ford, which has stopped taking orders for vehicles to be painted “tuxedo black” and is building fewer models in several red hues, is studying whether it can get a substitute from another supplier, according to a company spokesman, Todd Nissen.

But making such a switch is not simple, Mr. Nissen explained, because each component on a vehicle undergoes complex testing, and swapping in a new paint could result in mismatched portions or a less durable finish. In addition, finding replacement parts in the proper color later on could be impossible.

“We’re working on potential replacements, but I’m guessing that the supplier itself is looking into ways into being able to make it somewhere else,” he said.

At General Motors, a sport utility vehicle plant in Texas was shut Friday when workers were to report for an overtime shift. A G.M. spokeswoman, Sherrie Childers-Arb, said the overtime would be rescheduled.

Toyota and Subaru have canceled overtime shifts at their North American plants, and Honda is running some of its American and Canadian plants for fewer hours.

Nissan’s plants in Tennessee and Mississippi were closed Friday and will be shut again on Monday and three more days later this month.

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