AutoGuide News Blog
The AutoGuide News Blog is your source for breaking stories from the auto industry. Delivering news immediately, the AutoGuide Blog is constantly updated with the latest information, photos and video from manufacturers, auto shows, the aftermarket and professional racing.
If you thought the risk of buying a flood car after Hurricane Katrina was serious, imagine having your health threatened just from being near the car. That’s exactly what’s been happening in Japan, where unsuspecting consumers are being sold dangerously radioactive cars that belonged to people living in Fukushima and the surrounding area after the earthquake and tsunami that destroyed the prefecture’s nuclear power plant in March.
According to harbor authorities, 660 cars have been banned thus far for export because of unsafe radion levels. Rather than destroy the hazardous merchandise, some Japanese car dealers are simply swapping license plates to cover their stock’s origin according to The Asahi Shimbun newspaper.
One re-registered van was found to be emitting 110 microsieverts of radiation an hour— for perspective, the national limit for export to other countries is is 0.3 microsieverts an hour.
An unnamed dealer from the western city of Osaka bought the notorious vehicle at auction and decided to sell it despite the risk because he said he couldn’t afford to take the loss.
“I decontaminated repeatedly after the test and retested the filter of the air conditioner, the wipers and tires, replacing them thoroughly, but the radiation level dropped only to 30 microsieverts per hour,” he said.
[Source: FoxNews.com Autos]
Japan’s wealthy elite brought out their wallets this past weekend for a more than worthy cause; rebuilding the country they call home. At an event hosted by Ferrari Chairman Luca di Montezemolo and attended by Italian ambassador Vincenzo Petrone and Japanese Minister of Industry Banri Kaieda, a total of $724,000 was raised to help the disaster relief efforts in Japan.
With numerous items up for bidding at the auction, the big ticket item was the first Ferrari FF to be sold in the country, which went to Tokyo architect Masaharu Seno.
Held in the city of Ishinomaki, and attended by its mayor, the proceeds from the auction will be used to held build a new school for the children in the devastated city.
Yu Muroga was driving along peacefully in Japan when the earthquake and tsunami hit. We’re not quite sure why he had a HD camera running on the dashboard, but we’re certainly amazed by the footage it captured.
Even though the earthquake and subsequent tsunami that hit Japan needs no real introduction, very few videos have surfaced that showed the incident from this point-of-view. In fact, watching the video is a pretty surreal experience, something you’d expect out of a Hollywood blockbuster.
It starts off with an unsuspecting in-car point-of-view as the earthquake rocks the earth. It’s worth mentioning that the footage probably didn’t capture the huge one, but rather one of the aftershocks before the actual tsunami came. As the car pushed on to wherever it was trying to head to, the tsunami hits and flooding occurs. From there it’s heartbreaking to see people getting stuck in their cars or climbing to the roofs of their cars seeking refuge from the oncoming flood. It’s really something else to see cars floating around in a sea of water helplessly and how devastating the events were in Japan over three months ago.
Check out the video after the break. Continue Reading…
North American Honda production will return to normal in August, earlier than expected, the company announced in a statement today.
The Japanese automaker has accelerated their recovery following the March 11th earthquake and tsunami in Japan. Every Honda model will resume regualar production in August, except the 2012 Civic. The company expects full production of the Civic to resume in the fall.
When the supply of parts from Japan improves, production will ramp up on a step-by-step, plant-by-plant, and model-by-model basis. Models including the 4-cylinder Accord, CR-V and Acura RDX, as well as all V-6 models including the Accord, Accord Crosstour, Odyssey, Pilot, Ridgeline, and the Acura TL, MDX and ZDX will return to 100 percent production.
“The light at the end of the tunnel is glowing brighter for us, represented by this significant improvement in our production situation,” said John Mendel, executive vice president of American Honda Motor Co., Inc. “Throughout this crisis, Honda has been fighting to achieve a speedy recovery, while maintaining a focus on our longer-term plans for continued growth in sales and production in order to meet the growing needs of our customers.”
Honda, which employs 13,400 in Ohio, said in a statement that it has managed to avoid any layoffs in any of its 14 plants in North America during the parts shortage.
The Earthquake disaster in Japan may prompt European car makers to seek suppliers closer to them, the chief of Europe’s automobile association said.
Ivan Hodac, secretary general of the European Automobile Manufacturers Association, said that some car makers are still being affected by the disaster that caused several Japanese auto manufacturers to suspend operations. Hodac also stated this disaster affected many automakers outside of Japan.
Hodac also added that European auto makers want suppliers to be much closer, ostensibly to prevent any future production disruptions. The issue of a possible free trade agreement between the European Union and Japan, Hodac expressed fears that such it would provide a “one-sided advantage” for Japan. Hodac would prefer an agreement based on a level playing field instead.
[Source: Just Autos]
If there’s anything Toyota execs can be happy about for the most recent quarter, it’s that for them it’s Q4, marking an end to what has been a troubling 12 months for the Japanese auto giant. Just released data shows Toyota Q4 profit fell off a cliff, dropping 77 percent to “just” $314 million. The decline comes as sales dropped 12 percent as a result of the recent earthquake and tsunami shuttered factories and disrupted parts supplies.
And yet as bad as things seem, Toyota isn’t tuning into a pre-bankruptcy General Motors – not yet anyway. New income for the fiscal year was actually up 95 percent, as sales increased, even if just by 0.2 percent. Operating profit tripled, despite the strong yen which is hurting overseas profits.
Low Q4 sales due to reduced output proved to be the largest factor affecting the slight increase, with sales for the quarter down 12 percent.
Year-end numbers have yet to be released, but Bloomberg estimates a 311 billion yet net income for the year, or just under $4 billion U.S. Toyota has said it will not issue an earnings forecast for the next fiscal year.
Toyota is working to restore output and is currently at 70 percent of pre-quake capacity.
With global sales of 8.4 million units last year, some estimates put total 2011 production at around 6.5 million units. Recently company execs admitted that Toyota will likely give up its spot as the world’s largest automaker, with General Motors set to reclaim the lead. If sales are limited to 6.5 million, Toyota could slip to third behind Volkswagen.
To help Japan recover from the recent earthquake and tsunami many foreign companies have donated to relief charities. Aston Martin is the latest to contribute. It’s Chief Executive Officer, Dr. Ulrich Bez is giving up his personal Rapide super-sedan at the Bonhams Auction at Newport Pagnell, with all proceeds going to Japan.
He said; “Nobody could have failed to be moved by the recent events in Japan and we at Aston Martin are no exception. After many years presence in the market and closer ties being forged with the Japanese automotive business in recent projects, we have many friends in the region and we wanted to do something to help. The Bonhams Aston Martin Auction seems the perfect platform to encourage the extended Aston Martin family to support this cause, so we have decided to auction my Rapide which I have used in my role as Chief Executive to represent Aston Martin at numerous events in both UK and Europe. I hope this superb car will raise a substantial amount to help make a difference.”
This well appointed, V12 luxury car will hit the auction stage on May 21. The new owner will get a great car and help a great cause at the same time.
Toyota Canada has cut its sales projections by a third and warned dealers that the supply of new vehicles is starting to be choked off as the company feels the effects of the March 11th earthquake that rocked northern Japan.
While Toyota sent two memos to dealers regarding the revised sales forecast, the company refused to comment on the matter. “We have the availability to meet customer needs during our busiest retail period,” Toyota spokesperson Sandy DiFelice told The Globe and Mail. “We put out targets all the time. The dealers use those as a guide and work to exceed them.”
Summer is a busy season for the Canadian auto industry, with May and June typically the busiest months for auto sales. Toyota products are especially popular in Canada, where gas prices are higher than the United States, and the company’s extensive lineup of hybrids and fuel efficient vehicles are well received.
Toyota is also said to be offering dealers financial help to assist them through the anticipated lean periods, allowing them to get funding for vehicle incentives, marketing campagins and lease extensions for existing customers. Toyota will also allow dealers to suspend payments if they hold mortgages with the company’s financial arm, and will offer favorable interest rates to finance the purchase of new and used vehicles for the dealership.
[Source: The Globe and Mail]
Honda will delay the launch of their next generation CR-V crossover due to continued production delays, and supplies of their 2012 Civic will also be delayed as Honda’s North American production continues to run at well below capacity amid the after effects of Japan’s natural disasters.
In a letter to Honda’s dealers, U.S. executive vice-president John Mendel said “Recovery from this crisis is difficult and constantly evolving, most notably the challenge of obtaining a few key components required to maintain production at appropriate levels. Overall production volume will be at significantly reduced levels as we continue production adjustments through the summer months.”
Honda expects full production to resume much later in the year, with the CR-V being produced at Honda’s Canadian plant in addition to its East Liberty, Ohio facility. Acura‘s MDX and RDX will also be shifted to other plants in Alabama and Ohio, but the company says that the shifts are unrelated to problems related to their parts supply.
Hyundai boosted its quarterly profit by 46 percent, and managed to outsell Honda, whose production was hampered by the earthquake and tsunami that hit Japan in March.
Hyundai managed to sell 919,000 units in the quarter, compared to 860,000 for Honda. Honda’s earnings, output and total sales were down markedly, in line with other Japanese auto makers who have been forced to curtail production. While Honda expects production to be down until June, analysts say that the Japanese auto industry’s slump may help Hyundai surpass other Japanese OEM’s like Toyota and Nissan.
[Source: The Detroit News]
Nearly 5 months in to the calendar year, Lexus has admitted that it will not be able to sustain its lead in the luxury car sales race, due to tight supplies of vehicles and parts from Japan.
With dealers down to a 30 day supply of cars (compared to a usual 60 or 90 day supply), the situation is so drastic that regional marketing campaigns are being ended due to a dearth of new vehicles to sell. Lexus is offering to extend the leases of current customer’s vehicles, and is discouraging dealers from attempting to inflate prices of the limited supply of cars, with Lexus general manager Mark Templin stating “…that’s not the way we do business.”
Many vehicles, such as the newly introduced CT200h hybrid are nearly sold out, while the Japanese factories that build the majority of Lexus vehicles are not expected to reach full capacity until November.
[Source: Automotive News]
General Motors is set to become the world’s largest automaker yet again, reclaiming the title from Toyota, whose operations have been hit hard by a production slowdown brought on by Japan’s natural disasters.
With only a 30,000 vehicle gap in sales between the two companies at the end of 2010, GM should easily reclaim the lead, as 30,000 cars essentially amounts to a day’s worth of global sales. Meanwhile, Toyota claims that normal production schedules won’t return until November, proving a crucial blow to the automaker’s overall foothold in the marketplace.
Dealers may be in for an arduous summer as Japan’s auto parts shortage is on track to choke off new vehicle deliveries for months, with dealers potentially receiving no new vehicles until September.
The best case scenario will be a resumption of production on May 9th, after Japan’s traditional holiday break. But manufacturers are still unable to comment due to the unstable nature Japan’s auto industry, which is still reeling from the natural disasters that rocked the country in March.
“We are currently planning North American production for next month based on parts availability, so we are not yet ready to project our situation,” Mike Goss, a spokesman for Toyota Motor Engineering & Manufacturing North America told Automotive News. “We are planning the best we can, but everything depends upon parts. It’s a very fluid situation, changing daily.” The paper reports that Toyota will continue Japanese production at 50 percent capacity, and reassess the situation after June 6th.
Nissan declined to publicly comment, but told dealers that it will only receive 7,500 vehicles from Japan and Mexico in May, down from the usual 40,000. Dealers are beginning to fret over inventory levels, which will only take them through the end of May. Honda, as well as Toyota dealers are reporting similarly reduced numbers, while even General Motors is said to be producing and allocating vehicles in a conservative manner, due to uncertainty over parts supplies and the overall marketplace.
[Source: Automotive News]
Many car companies have suffered and Toyota, the largest car company in Japan is no exception. Their production delays will have an effect on Toyota dealers in America.
In a letter sent to Toyota dealers on April 10, 2011. Toyota U.S.A. Division General Manager Bob Carter said, “Today we have good levels of inventory, but inventory will be getting tighter. What we don’t know are vehicle production levels for May through July. The potential exists that supply of new vehicles could be significantly impacted this summer.”
Currently, over 300,000 new Toyota’s are in stock, and the spare parts supply business is so far not effected. Production at Toyota’s North American plants is now running at three-days a week, and the Japanese production facilities are running at 50% of their normal capacity.
Shipping has been affected also, with Toyota to ship vehicles from Japan once every two weeks, with stops at six or more ports on each voyage, said Carter.
[Source: Automotive News]
Toyota is the latest automaker to adjust their North American production schedules, with plants idling on April 15, 18, 21, 22, and 25. Toyota’s engine and component factories will follow a similar schedule, while their Georgetown, Kentucky facility will remain open on April 21.
Employees at the plants will have the option of report to work for training programs, use vacation time or take unpaid days off. While Toyota claims that 85 percent of their parts are sourced from North America, the fact is that one missing part, no matter how inconsequential, can halt an entire production line for indefinite periods of time, and this phenomenon is something that will be a common occurrence during these next few months.
Honda plants in North America could be operating at well below capacity as a shortage of parts from Japan threatens to cripple the automaker’s output for as long as 90 days.
Speaking with Automotive News, Honda’s executive Vice-President John Mendel estimated a 60 to 90 day slowdown, with 30 days being an optimistic forecast. Honda has already cut production in half at 5 of its 6 North American plants due to a parts shortage, and 90 percent of Hondas sold in North America are assembled here. While 600 of its 710 suppliers are based in North America, a single missing part can result in a production stoppage.
Mendel highlighted the dire situation in Japan, stating ”In some places, they are still recovering bodies. And even if you have a warehouse full of finished microchips, the roads are ruined, and you are in the radiation zone. What are you going to do?” Honda is estimated to have a 47 day supply of vehicles, and the company is also monitoring parts order by dealers to make sure that hoarding and other shady practices do not occur.
Honda currently imports the Fit and CR-Z from Japan.
[Source: Automotive News]
The world of racing is often only focused on getting to the podium, but at the this weekend’s Grand Am series race at Barber Motorsports Park in Birmingham, Ala., three Mazda race teams will be doing their part to help raise funds for American Red Cross for Japan relief.
The teams in question are Dempsey Racing, Team Sahlen and Speedsource, and they each will be displaying special graphics which would encourage people to donate $10 by texting REDCROSS at 90999.
“The devastation in Japan is so overwhelming and we wanted to help in any way we could,” said Sylvain Tremblay of SpeedSource Inc, who came up with the idea to race with special graphics on the Mazda race cars. “We will be donating all race winnings from Car #70 to the American Red Cross Japan relief efforts.”
Dempsey Racing shares the feeling, saying; “It’s been just three weeks since the tragedy in Japan and already news updates have begun thinning out, while the people of Japan still need so much help,” said Joe Foster of Dempsey Racing and who co-drives car #40 with Hollywood actor Patrick Dempsey. “We are hoping to generate a second round of donations to the Red Cross this weekend by keeping Japan top-of-mind with both the racing community and our fans.”
Team Sahlen will be racing cars #42 and #43. “We are hoping to help make a difference by spotlighting the Red Cross efforts to assist Japan,” said Will Nonnamaker, team driver.
The Mazda Foundation in America has already made a $150,000 donation for the Japan earthquake and tsunami relief and is encouraging its dealers to do the same.
While Ford and General Motors have both seen plants shut down due to the natural disasters in Japan, and the resulting impact on the country’s auto parts industry, Chrysler‘s vehicle production has remained unaffected by these events.
“We have not experienced any disruptions to regularly scheduled production as a result of the issues in Japan,” said Chrysler spokeswoman Katie Helper.
While some overtime shifts have been cancelled to preserve parts, and a work stoppage occurred at Chrysler’s minivan plant (unrelated to the Japanese disasters), the company claims that everything is on schedule and is not suffering from any disruptions due to the earthquake and tsunami. We’re glad to know that consumers will be able to enjoy an uninterrupted supply of Chrysler 200 cars even if the rest of the industry goes belly-up.
As part of an effort to raise money for the Red Cross’ Japanese disaster relief fund , artists affiliated with the EMI record label are auctioning off various knick-knacks, with everything from stereo equipment to handbags to vacations up for grabs.
If you’re reading this, then you’re probably most interested in the 1987 Ferrari 412 that’s being auctioned off by EMI and French electronic music group Daft Punk. The car was used in the video for “Electroma”, and the license plate will be signed by both members of Daft Punk.
After a brief announcement on March 23rd stating that the natural disasters in Japan may affect North American production, Toyota has announced that it is still “too early to predict” whether plants in Canada and the United States, which build both Toyota and Lexus cars, will face shutdowns due to a shortage of parts from Japanese factories.
Toyota claims that most of their factories on this side of the Pacific use North American sourced parts, and that stocks of Japanese parts are still plentiful. However, the depletion of these stockpiles and the failure to restart production at Japanese part plants could mean shutdowns occurring here. While most of the news surrounding the condition of the Japanese auto industry is speculation, the hypothetical consequences of such a shutdown could be catastrophic.
Economic effects, like a lack of work for plant employees, a dearth of cars for dealers to sell and the associated economic effects of a crippled auto industry could occur at a time when an economic recovery is in a fragile infancy, and a blow of this nature could be very hazardous to our economic health.
[Source: Left Lane News]
The Toyota Prius, beloved of eco-conscious of buyers in California, is in short supply in the Sunshine State, as high gas prices and production disruptions due to Japan’s natural disasters have caused dealers to either run low on supply or be completely out of stock.
Dealers, who report as little as a 14-day supply of the car (compared to an industry average of 90 days) are worrying as analysts predict that shipments of the car from its factory in Japan could lag by as much as 2,000 units through April. While Toyota has offered aggressive lease deals and incentives for the Prius, the average transaction price has gone up substantially, as dealers report a rapid sales increase in conjunction with rising gas prices. Toyota will not be continuing their incentives when they expire on April 4th.
[Source: Los Angeles Times]
A shortage of parts means that Subaru‘s Indiana plant will have its production cut in half through the end of the week, and the company will assess the situation on a day to day basis to examine whether a continuation is necessary.
Each of the two shifts will have 4 hours cut from their length. The plant builts the Legacy, Outback and Tribeca models, strong sellers for the brand. Toyota also builds the Camry at the same plant but said that its production was not affected. Subaru was attempting to set a sales record in 2011, after a strong year in 2010 which saw it make substantial gains. But Subaru’s status as a smaller automaker and a smaller supplier base to draw on means that it could be more vulnerable to disruptions than larger automakers like Honda and Toyota.
[Source: Automotive News]
A Japanese factory that makes batteries for the Chevrolet Volt is back online today after being temporarily shut down since the March 11th earthquake.
Hitachi Automotive operates the three plants, one of which produces batteries for the Volt. GM has apparently ordered 100,000 battery packs for the Volt. The other two produce various vehicle components, including Tokico-brand suspension parts, engine computers and fuel systems.
A Hitachi spokesman in Japan told Automotive News that the plants were running at about 70 percent capacity. The plant is expected to reach full capacity by next week.
[Source: Automotive News]