Japanese quake likely to hurt automakers around the world

Some folks think that when Japanese automakers run low on vehicles in the United States because of earthquake-related supply disruptions, U.S. automakers will be able to benefit.

I doubt it. Here’s why.

On Thursday, March 10, General Motors recognized 82 of its best global automotive suppliers with its Supplier of the Year awards. Of those 82, at least eight are Japanese companies. (That excludes two U.S. arms of Japanese suppliers, and a Japanese shipping company.)

It’s a global industry.

Last year, a supplier executive told me of the headaches his company had faced. It couldn’t get enough electronic parts from a plant in the Philippines to make subcomponents at its Mexican operation. Then it couldn’t air-freight the parts from Mexico to Germany on time because of flight delays caused by the eruption of that volcano in Iceland.

Automakers around the world are assessing their supply chains to see if the Japanese disaster will affect their production.

My recommendation: Assume any automaker, anywhere in the world, will be hurt until it can prove it won’t be.

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