DETROIT -- Toyota has passed Nissan as the most efficient producer of vehicles in North America, according to the annual Harbour Report released last week.
Each of the Big 3 boosted productivity and are approaching Honda in total labor hours per vehicle.
General Motors' Oshawa, Ontario, No. 1 plant passed Nissan Motor Co.'s Altima line in Smyrna, Tenn., as the most efficient assembly plant in North America, using 15.85 labor hours per vehicle. The Oshawa No. 1 plant produces the Chevrolet Impala and Monte Carlo cars.
Harbour Consulting of Troy, Mich., measures the productivity of North America's automobile factories. This year's study evaluates performance in 2004.
Toyota Motor Corp. cut its total labor hours per vehicle by 5.5 percent from last year's study to 27.90 hours, according to the report. Total hours are calculated at stamping, powertrain and assembly operations.
The report ranks Toyota production efficiency the best overall, even though the automaker's assembly plants in Princeton, Ind., and Cambridge, Ontario, did not participate in the study - a situation that has occurred in previous years of the report. Several of Nissan's and Honda Motor Co.'s plants also did not participate this year, which also has happened in previous years.
"Toyota's labor productivity lead equates to a $350 to $500 per vehicle cost advantage relative to domestic manufacturers," says Harbour President Ron Harbour.
He noted that Toyota has put more emphasis on its highly regarded production system, and the automaker is spreading standardized manufacturing processes throughout its plants.
Launches hurt Nissan
Nissan, traditionally the leader in assembly plant productivity, saw overall labor hours per vehicle climb 4.8 percent to 29.43 hours. The automaker introduced several redesigned products in 2004, including the Maxima sedan, Pathfinder SUV and Frontier pickup at its Smyrna plant.
Also, the Altima line at the Smyrna plant, which last year ranked No. 1 at 15.33 labor hours per vehicle, scored 16.10 hours per vehicle in this year's report. Yet the Altima, Maxima and Xterra SUV lines at Smyrna still placed among the top 10 assembly plants in hours per vehicle.
Nissan minimized damage to its performance by excluding its Canton, Miss., assembly plant from the study. The Canton plant was a sore spot for Nissan because its products - the Quest minivan, Titan pickup and Pathfinder Armada SUV - were beset with quality problems. Nissan sent 200 engineers from Japan to the plant last year to try to fix the problems.
Big 3 bunch up
The Big 3 scored within 2.6 labor hours per vehicle of each other, ranging from 34.33 hours for GM to 36.98 hours for Ford Motor Co. Both Ford and the Chrysler group improved their total hours-per-vehicle score 4.2 percent from last year, while GM's score improved 2.5 percent.
Over the past three years, the Chrysler group's total hours score on the report has improved 19 percent. And the automaker's Belvidere, Ill., plant broke into the list of top 10 vehicle assembly plants. The plant, which builds the Dodge Neon and is preparing to convert to a five-door vehicle that will replace the Neon, ranked No. 7 on the list.
"Unlike its past recoveries, Chrysler is making broad improvements that permeate beyond manufacturing," Harbour said. "This will provide more consistency in future market fluctuations."
In the category of average productivity of assembly plants alone, the New United Motor Manufacturing Inc. plant in Fremont, Calif., was the top-ranked company at 21.78 hours per vehicle, down 0.6 percent from last year's report. The plant is a joint venture of GM and Toyota.
GM ranked second in average assembly plant productivity at 23.09 hours per vehicle. Four of the top 10 assembly plants were GM plants.
GM and NUMMI scored better than the average of 23.42 assembly hours per vehicle, according to Harbour.
Mitsubishi Motors Corp.'s decline in sales hurt the productivity score of its plant in Normal, Ill. The plant saw labor hours per vehicle jump 17.5 percent from last year's report to 29.89 hours per vehicle. Mitsubishi was last among company averages.
|Top 10 vehicle assembly plants|
|Ranked on labor hours per vehicle, 2004|
|Rank||Automaker, plant||Vehicle(s) produced||Labor hours per vehicle|
|1||GM Oshawa No. 1||Chevy Impala, Monte Carlo||15.85|
|2||Nissan Smyrna||Nissan Altima||16.1|
|3||Ford Atlanta||Ford Taurus, Mercury Sable||16.58|
|4||GM Oshawa No. 2||Buick Allure, Century, LaCrosse, Regal; Pontiac Grand Prix||17.47|
|5||GM Lansing M||Chevy Classic, Pontiac Grand Am||17.53|
|6||Toyota Georgetown No. 2||Toyota Camry, Camry Solara||18.43|
|7||DCX Belvidere||Dodge Neon||18.71|
|8||Nissan Smyrna||Nissan Maxima||19.31|
|9||GM Lansing C*||Pontiac Grand Am, Oldsmobile Alero||19.42|
|10||Nissan Smyrna||Nissan Xterra||19.51|
|* Plant closed June 2004|
|Source: Harbour Report|
Nissan, Toyota and Honda were not included in the rankings of assembly productivity due to the partial participation of their assembly plants. The average scores for each automaker from plants that did participate would have ranked all three ahead of the NUMMI plant.
The Harbour Report also measures productivity at stamping and engine building operations. Toyota shines in both areas.
Toyota led in stamping productivity at 1.37 hours per vehicle, a 28.3 percent gain from last year's report. Harbour noted that Toyota got a report-record 775 average parts per hour from its stamping operations.
Toyota's four-cylinder engine plant in Buffalo, W. Va., was top-ranked in the report, needing only 1.88 labor hours per engine.
You may e-mail Dale Jewett at [email protected]