Toyota delays Japan launch

DETROIT – Toyota is delaying next month’s Japan sales launch of the new Prius V hybrid minivan because of disruptions in the supply chain in the wake of the March 11 earthquake, tsunami and ensuing crisis at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant, but so far the U.S. launch is set for late this summer.
The world’s largest automaker has suspended all assembly operations in Japan since March 14 because some suppliers can’t deliver necessary parts. That production will last at least through this coming weekend. The halt in production has resulted in a loss of 140,000 vehicles.
While about 70 percent of the vehicles Toyota sells in the U.S. are assembled in North America, certain models such as the Prius hybrid, Yaris subcompact and three models sold under its Scion brand are imported from Japan.
Toyota dealers said last week they had about 40 days’ supply of Prii at the end of February. With gas prices continuing to rise, however, and no new production for two weeks, supplies could run short soon.
The Prius V is a larger gasoline-electric hybrid with about 50 percent cargo space than the current Prius sedan. Toyota executives have said it will achieve about 42 miles per gallon in city driving and 38 mpg on the highway.
Asked whether the delay in putting the Prius V on sale in Japan will delay its late-summer on-sale date in the U.S., Toyota spokesman Mike Michels said, “This hasn’t been determined.”
Separately, Nissan CEO Carlos Ghosn told Bloomberg News on Wednesday that about 40 suppliers are unable to resume full production. Electronic components, plastics and rubber are particularly in short supply.
Nissan’s Iwaki engine plant is in the same prefecture at the troubled Fukushima nuclear plant. The company is considering shipping engines from a plant in Decherd, Tenn., to Japan, but Ghosn said Nissan has no plans to shift assembly of vehicles to other countries.

Greg Gardner/Detroit Free Press