In reporting this story, we have to underline the obvious human toll of the disaster, as well as the horrendous destruction to property and the livelihoods of the Japanese people. While the international news networks continue their excellent work covering the story, as car journalists and huge fans of Japanese cars in general, we thought we should bring you this story.
Honda, Nissa, Toyota and Subaru, Isuzu and Hino Motors (a large truck manufacturer) have all halted production indefinitely in Japan, as the country takes stock of the destruction caused by last week’s earthquake and subsequent tsunami. At least one person died at Honda’s R&D facility, and two fires broke out at a Nissan plant.
Nissan has reported damage to 2300 new vehicles and minor damages to four of its factories. While the factories themselves have reported little damage, transport networks and of course the ports, via which all cars are exported to foreign markets, have been badly damaged and will take considerable time to repair.
Car makers are likely to keep assembly plants closed until they are certain the supply chain has recovered enough to meet the demands of regular production. At this point it is unclear whether the effects will be felt in overseas markets, although there is likely to be a disruption in new models and/or parts in the North American market.
The Japanese manufacturers are widely known for running “just-in-time” assembling methods. This means that the parts for a particular model arrive at the factory hours, even minutes before they are needed. This is all good and well when everything is running smoothly, but the tsunami has led to a massive disruption in this system. Some part suppliers are set up very close to the factories, but many are further afield, particularly in the north-western region of the country, most heavily affected by the tsunami.
New cars which were standing in ports waiting to be exported were smashed, burned and mostly drowned as the water rushed over breakwaters, leading to some astonishing images of thousands of cars being destroyed.