Toyota says N.A. output back to normal after quake
Photo credit: BLOOMBERG
DETROIT -- Toyota Motor Corp. said Tuesday its North American assembly and component plants have resumed normal output following the earthquake in Japan six months ago.
The recovery in light vehicle production at Toyota's six assembly plants in North America is well ahead of the company's initial expectations.
Shortly after the March 11 earthquake and tsunami, Toyota warned it may not return to normal production levels until November or December.
The quake has resulted in lower sales and profits for most Japanese automakers, primarily Toyota and Honda Motor Co. Prior to the quake, Japanese automakers' share of the U.S. market hovered around 40 percent. In the months following the quake, the share dropped to around 30 percent.
Toyota's profits in its fiscal first quarter, the period most affected by the disasters, plunged 99 percent to 1.16 billion yen.
Toyota and other Japanese automakers responded by adjusting production schedules at assembly and engine plants to preserve parts.
In June, output of eight of Toyota's 12 North American-built vehicles returned to normal levels. Those models are the Avalon, Camry, Corolla, Matrix, Highlander, Sienna, Sequoia and Venza.
Tuesday's announcement means the Toyota Tacoma, Tundra, and RAV 4 as well as the Lexus RX 350 are now being built at their normal pace.
A Honda spokesperson said Tuesday output of the automaker's North American-built models has returned to normal levels, with the exception of the all-new Civic. Honda has not indicated when it expects Civic production to reach planned targets.
The 12 Toyota and Lexus models assembled in North America account for nearly 70 percent of Toyota's U.S. sales volume. The automaker's U.S. sales have dropped 8 percent this year because of supply shortages caused by the earthquake.
At Honda, U.S. sales are off 6 percent through August. Industrywide U.S. sales have risen 11 percent.
On Sept. 7, Toyota said production at its plants in Japan had returned to normal levels.
The automaker said it will now rebuild dealer inventories by scheduling overtime and Saturday production shifts at select plants. On Sept. 1, Toyota had 169,100 Toyota, Scion and Lexus vehicles in U.S. inventory -- or a 34-days supply, according to the Automotive News Data Center.
The company estimates North America production levels in the fourth quarter will be approximately 15 percent higher than forecasted before the earthquake and tsunami.
Toyota declined to provide more specific estimates for fourth quarter car and light truck production in North America.
During the fourth quarter of 2010, Toyota assembled 343,973 cars and light trucks in North America, according to the Automotive News Data Center.
The automaker's North America output has dropped to an estimated 722,507 units this year through August, from 985,504 units through August in 2010, based on estimates from the Automotive News Data Center.
Last year, Toyota assembled 1.28 million cars and light trucks in the United States, Canada and Mexico.
"The recovery is a testament to the dedication and commitment of our North American team members, suppliers and business partners," Steve St. Angelo, Toyota's executive vice president for engineering and manufacturing, said in a statement.
4 cylinders in Alabama
Separately, the company said its Alabama engine plant will begin producing four-cylinder engines this month.
The Huntsville plant, which also builds six- and eight-cylinder engines for light trucks and SUVs, will assemble four-cylinder engines for the new Camry, Highlander, RAV4, Venza and Sienna.
In October, output at Toyota's 14th North American plant, in Mississippi, will begin with production of the Corolla. The plant is hiring 2,000 team members.
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