Friday, March 11, 2011

Earthquake could shake U.S. auto industry

Sacramento, California -- My usual weekly auto review seems entirely trivial, given the sledgehammer events occurring today in Japan.

And while we might feel safe and secure in our homes, there's a good chance the earthquake and tsunami that devastated Japan will reverberate throughout the U.S. auto industry in the immediate future.

Where to start? Well consider:

Toyota Motor Corp., the world’s biggest automaker, said today that it had shut down four of its subsidiary plants in Japan.

Honda Motor Co. has shut three plants through Monday, and Nissan Motor Co. stopped production at five of its plants in northeastern Japan.

Suzuki Motor Corp. said Friday it was still gathering "information about any additional effects to Suzuki’s operations, including port distribution, plant and dealership operations, as well as our vendors and suppliers located in the damaged areas."

In California, America's largest auto market, there are significant reasons to closely watch Japan's problems.

Japan is the third-largest foreign market for California exports, trailing only Mexico and Canada.

California merchandise exports to Japan totaled $12.2 billion in 2010, according to the U.S. Commerce Department.

Not only that, the department said California imported goods totaling $40.7 billion from Japan last year. The primary imports included motor vehicles, motor vehicle parts and tires.

It's too early to tell how badly Japan's manufactuing and economic infrastructure have been damaged, but here's hoping Japan and nations around the world aggressively step in and help the ravaged nation get back on his feet.

In this global economy -- and with Japan one of the world's top auto-producing nations -- Japan's pain could quickly become ours.

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