Manufacturing AUTOMATION

Automakers continue to cut production at North American plants

April 11, 2011
By With files from The Canadian Press

Toyota Motor Corp. said last week that it will suspend production at its North American plants in a series of one-day shutdowns this month as a result of parts shortages caused by the earthquake that hit Japan.

The temporary shutdowns will affect 25,000 workers, but there will be no layoffs, the automaker said. A March 11 earthquake and tsunami damaged auto parts plants in northeastern Japan, causing shortages.

All 13 of its North American plants will have down time, though the duration may vary at a few plants, Toyota spokesman Mike Goss said. For most plants, the one-day shutdowns will begin April 15 and end April 25, the company said.

Toyota said future production plans will be determined later.


“We’re just monitoring supplier progress on a daily basis, and we’ll make decisions as we go along,” Goss said.

The North American plants have been using parts in their inventory or relying on those that were shipped before the earthquake.

“We are slowing down to conserve parts, yet maintain production as much as possible,” said Steve St. Angelo, executive vice-president of Toyota Motor Engineering and Manufacturing North America.

Toyota gets only about 15 percent of its parts from Japan for cars and trucks built in North America. Those parts include electronic and rubber components, and a paint additive, Goss said.

The production shutdowns will total five days — April 15, 18, 21, 22 and 25 — at its North American vehicle plants, except at Georgetown, Ky., where production will be halted four days. The Kentucky plant makes the Camry, along with the Avalon and Venza vehicles.

Most of the company’s North American engine and component plants will follow the same schedule, the company said. The schedule might vary for just a few of those plants, Goss said.

The incremental stoppage in production is meant to “keep as much production going on a weekly basis as we possibly can so we keep vehicles flowing to our dealerships,” Goss said.

Meanwhile, Honda Motor Co. said it will add a week to production slowdowns at its 11 North American auto plants.

The company said in late March that it would shut down assembly lines for several hours a day because of parts shortages from Japan. The temporary shutdowns have been extended to the week of April 18, though more disruptions are expected after that, the automaker said.

The company said none of its North American factory workers will be laid off.

Shortages of parts from Japan are also affecting manufacturers outside of the country.

Ford Motor Co. and Nissan Motor Co. recently said that several North American plants would be closed for part of this month. Chrysler Group LLC is cutting overtime at plants in Canada and Mexico to conserve parts from Japan.

Toyota said its North American plant workers will focus on training and reviewing operations when production is halted so that they can still earn a pay cheque. However, they can also take vacation or unpaid time off.

Meanwhile, Toyota announced Friday it will resume car production at all its plants in Japan at half capacity from April 18 to 27. The March earthquake and tsunami had forced the company to halt manufacturing due to shortages of parts and power. The company said production at the plants will then halt from April 28 to May 9, which includes a holiday period when factories would normally close.

– With files from The Canadian Press

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