Far down Japan's supply chain is the future

The most high-level marketing plans in the auto business right now are ensnared in the rubble of Japan's seacoast.

Don't imagine anyone is immune from it.

As odd it was, General Motors' shutdown Thursday of pickup production in Shreveport, La., was merely a harbinger of headaches to come. That the chaos in Japan's globally important manufacturing base would trip up a GM plant before it hit a Honda or a Subaru in North America was curious. But in time, the disturbance will show up elsewhere too.

And no one can be certain where because the automakers of the world have lost touch with their supply chains. Not all of their supply chains. Not the Densos and Bosches and Aisins of the business. But the guys far down the chain, who make the plastic pellets and the hinges and the springs and the chips.

Their telephones are ringing in Japan and no one is answering. Phone lines are down. Chairs are empty. Are they OK? Maybe. Hopefully. Will they come back on line eventually? Certainly.

But when?

In time to keep the new product launch on schedule? In time to take advantage of the big advertising campaign? In time to salvage my sales month? Or my sales month next month? Will this affect my dealership profits? Will this impact the April production schedule at my parts plant in Indiana?

Not until every little part-maker and commodity supplier in Japan is accounted for and assessed will anyone be able to say anything factual about the immediate future.

So we are eagerly waiting for someone to answer those ringing telephones.

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