Watching The First Hybrid Corolla Come Off Line In Japan

The first hybrid Corollas - in grey and white, of course

The first hybrid Corollas – in grey and white, of course

When Toyota launched the Corolla Hybrid onto the Japanese market a few weeks ago, they discreetly pointed out to me that “unlike what we usually do,” this is simply marketed as an engine package, not as a separate model. Some may think this is because there is no shortage of separate Toyota models on the Japanese market. I see it as a step towards Toyota’s mainstreamification of the hybrid powertrain. On Friday, I went to Toyota’s plant in Ohira, Miyagi, to see the first Corolla Hybrid come off line.


Ohira’s right-sized Mayor receives Prius plug-in from Akio Toyoda

Until Toyota came to town, Ohira’s only claim to fame was that it is the only independent village in all of Miyagi prefecture, everything else is either towns or cities. Everything in Ohira is small, including its Mayor. Also in the town hall is a photograph where Toyota’s president Akio Toyoda hands over the keys of a Prius plug-in hybrid to His Honor. Akio is no giant, but he clearly towers over Mayor Atobe Masahiro.

Ohira lies some 16 miles and $130 for the taxi driver (do NOT believe that the yen is undervalued) from Sendai. The plant had an ominous start. Four weeks after it was opened in February 2011, Sendai and much of the Tohoku coast was hit by the March 11 earthquake and tsunami. The plant itself is built well and was relatively unscathed. Nonetheless, it had to stop production. First, because no gas was flowing. The gas was needed to dry the paint. Then, the plant shut down with all the other Toyota facilities while waiting for a resumption of parts deliveries.

Also near Sendai is the Naka plant of Renesas. It did not fare as well as the Ohira factory. Renesas is one of the world’s leading manufacturers of flashable microcontrollers, the little brains that are inside of more products than we imagine. Renesas supplied some 20 percent of the world’s automotive microcontroller market. About 70 percent of the production was sold to Japanese automakers, the remaining 30 percent went to US and European car companies. The plant looked like it was hit by several bombs. It looked like it would not ship chips before the end of the year. Four weeks later, and with the help of thousands of people brought in from all over Japan, the plant was working again.

The batteries

The battery/ Small enough to fit under the rear seat.

This is not forgotten, but not on top of the mind anymore this Friday in Ohira. Today is the day hybrid technology comes to town. Hybrids are a big hit in Japan. Toyota’s Prius has been on top of Japan’s sales charts since 2009. It recently has been toppled by its Aqua sibling, which is sold in the U,.S. as the Prius c. When the plant opened two years ago, reporters wanted to know when hybrids come to Ohira. Finally, it has arrived.

In the plant itself, very little had to change to accommodate the new technology. The plant is a flexibility marvel.

A regular car factory usually has below ground pits for the motors, chains and gears that keep the line moving. In Ohira, the cars move on maybe a foot high conveyor system that is simply bolted into the concrete flooring. Cheaper to build, cheaper to tear down and rebuild somewhere else. The line can be lengthened or shortened at will. The assembly line doesn’t “grow roots” as they say in Toyota-speak.

The cars no longer dangle from the ceiling

The cars no longer dangle from the ceiling

The cars no longer dangle from the ceiling while parts are attached from below. They roll on a simple raised platform. This reduces the ceiling height of the factory. Advantage: 50 percent of the investment saved, says Toyota. A side effect of the non-dangling is that people can work on a stationary object, instead on one that dangles.

Usually, cars move along an assembly line in a vertical line, as if they already are sitting in a slow-moving traffic jam. Not in Ohira. Here, the cars move sideways. Think of a parking lot down at the mall. Now move the parking lot to the right. Advantage: With the cars moving sideways instead of straight ahead, the line can be 35 percent shorter. The factory can be smaller. The expenses are lower.

The paint spray line of a car factory usually is a highly complex system that is built in place. Very expensive parts and experts have to be flown in. Not in Ohira. For Ohira, Toyota developed a modular paint spray line. The modules can be built somewhere else and are assembled at the plant in a much shorter time. Advantage: Cost savings.

Ohira is a secretive plant

Ohira is a secretive plant

The Ohira plant is a secretive plant. “No photo! No sketch!” warns a slide. The ubiquitous camera-equipped smartphones get a little sticker to cover the camera. Photo-ops are limited to three stations, and reprimands are handed out if the camera points in the wrong direction.

While never officially confirmed, it is widely understood that Ohira is a pilot plant where production technology is developed and confirmed before it is rolled out all over the world.

Toyota’s global bestseller, the Corolla, is not very important in Japan. On the January through July Japanese sales chart, the Corolla sits in rank 8. However, it is THE strategic model for Toyota’s continued growth and its further expansion into the world’s emerging markets. The Corollas that are made in Ohira are not for export. The export article is the production technology developed for and in Ohira.

Hybrid technology may top the charts in Japan, in the rest of the world, it definitely does not. The market share of all hybrid cars sits in the 3 percent range in the U.S. In diesel-enamored Europe, the market share of hybrid vehicles remains below the detection threshold in most countries. In China and the world’s emerging markets, hybrids play even less of a role. This is beginning to change. Experts agree that Europe’s ambitious emission goals need hybrid technology to be met. China is dropping its fruitless fixation on EVs and is moving towards hybrid. Toyota’s internal goal is that hybrid powertrains are mainstream by the end of the decade: Small enough in price to be affordable. Small in package size to fit in most cars. Big in savings.

Final inspection

Final inspection

The hybrid-engined Corolla is very close to all that. It may only be meant for the Japanese market. But like so often in Ohira, it is also proof of the concept that a hybrid powertrain can be fitted to just about any car the world over.

Text and all pictures by Bertel Schmitt, Tokyo


Toyota Europe production to return to normal in June

Toyota’s Global and USA Newsrooms recently informed us that post-earthquake Toyota and Lexus production boosts in Japan and North America would happen sooner than expected, starting in June instead of July and August as earlier predicted. But what about Europe? Fortunately, news from there is even better, as a press release from the Toyota Motor Europe Corporate Site informs us that production there will return to 100% normal, pre-earthquake levels in June. To be more precise:

The plants returning to 100% production volume on June 1 are Toyota Motor Manufacturing UK (TMUK, producing Avensis, Auris and Auris HSD in Burnaston, Derbyshire and engines in Deeside, Flintshire), Toyota Motor Manufacturing Turkey (TMMT, producing Auris and Verso), and Toyota Motor Industries Poland (TMIP, producing engines). Toyota Motor Manufacturing France (TMMF, producing Yaris) had previously announced a return to normal from May 16. TME had temporarily adjusted production volume in late April and May.

On reporting this welcome bit of news, Toyota Motor Europe’s President and CEO Didier Leroy had this to say:

“This is great news for our customers and for our team members. I want to thank our suppliers for working hard to resolve the supply issues caused by the earthquake and our customers for their patience and understanding.

Even though this catastrophe has had a significant impact on Japan’s economy and Toyota’s operations, we are strongly committed to overcome it. In Europe, our product offering is excellent and market demand is strong – we intend to do all we can to catch up and increase our sales from last year. I believe that fighting to increase sales, profit and market share is the best way to support Japan as it recovers from this dramatic event.”

Indeed, Toyota’s European operations in 2011 still aim to exceed the Toyota and Lexus brands’ combined sales there of 808,311 vehicles during 2010. Of those, roughly 460,000 were built in Europe, as Japan’s Nikkei via The Truth About Cars remind us. They note, however, that European production slowdowns during April and May cost the carmaker some 40,000 vehicles for this year.

With the Toyota brand’s first scheduled launch for the 2011 calendar year, the Prius Alpha already delayed (and rumors circulating of delays for its North American Prius v counterpart as well), we can’t help but wonder if the European debut of the 3rd-generation of the Yaris might be postponed as well. The surprisingly quick return of full European production, however, is a welcome sign that its debut (likely at the 2011 Frankfurt Auto Show press conferences on Tuesday 13 September or Wednesday 14 September) will go on as scheduled.

Two months on from the Japan earthquakes and tsunami

As the world marks the grim 2-month anniversary of the Great East Japan Earthquake and its ensuing aftermath, it is time for us at Kaizen Factor to offer an overview of where Toyota and its multiple affiliates stand in their efforts to return to a semblance of normalcy. A month ago our focus seemed to be primarily on production schedules and donations for relief efforts. Now, there is more of a varied grab-bag of information to offer. One new theme, however, is the overall profit-and-loss picture of Toyota and its affiliates, given that the Japanese fiscal year runs from 1 April to 31 March, and results for the 2011 fiscal year have just been released. Given that timing, only the last 2½ weeks of the 2011 fiscal year were materially affected by the natural disasters. Quite understandably, though, Japanese carmakers are hesitant to give guidance and predictions for the 2012 fiscal year that just started, given all the uncertainty surrounding the return to full production.

TOYOTA (including LEXUS and SCION)
Toyota’s financial results for the 2011 fiscal year (1 April 2010-31 March 2011) are, predictably enough, a mixed bag. For the die-hard pencil-pusher bean-counter accountant geek types who want to pore over every single number, we invite you to look beyond us to the Wall Street Journal or Forbes, or to the official press releases in Toyota’s USA and Global Newsrooms. For the rest of us, an excellent first place to look is Bertel Schmitt of The Truth About Cars‘ analysis and commentary. He starts by accentuating the positive and noting that Toyota finished the 2011 fiscal year with a group net profit of 408.1 billion yen ($5 billion), up 95% versus the previous fiscal year. This despite an ever-strengthening yen that is driving the company – and a lot of the Japanese industry – “to the limit”, in the words of Toyota’s Chief Financial Officer Satoshi Ozawa. He then went on to put the impact of the March 11 earthquake and tsunami at 110 billion yen ($1.36 billion) in lost operating income for the final 2½ weeks of the fiscal year.

Other sources such as Bloomberg and Automotive News focused on the more sobering 77% plunge in net income in the fiscal 4th quarter (1 January 2011 thru 31 March 2011), while Executive Vice President Atsushi Niimi had earlier estimated that Toyota may have lost output of 300,000 vehicles in Japan and 100,000 overseas through the end of April due to quake-related shutdowns.

Further adding to the storm clouds on the horizon is Japanese Prime Minister Naoto Kan’s request for the closure of the Hamaoka nuclear power plant, about 190 kilometers (118 miles) southwest of Tokyo. Although located in Shizuoka Prefecture (home to numerous Suzuki and Yamaha facilities, plus a couple of Honda’s), it also supplies power to neighboring Aichi Prefecture, where a dozen Toyota vehicle and parts assembly plants are located (see the two lower right inset boxes in the illustration above and the Japanese Production Site page from the Toyota Global website). Currently, 32 of Japan’s 54 nuclear reactors are down, 11 of them shut down after the March 11 earthquake and tsunami and the other 21 had been previously down for inspections. Chubu Electric plans to build a seawall of at least 12 meters (39 feet) height at the Hamaoka power plant to better protect it against potential earthquake or tsunami damage, a process that will take about 2 or 3 years. Indeed, worries abound over the facility’s vulnerability, with Reuters citing government experts’ prediction of an 87% probability of a magnitude 8.0 quake hitting the Hamaoka area in the next 30 years, beg the question of why it was built there in the first place.

While the Hamaoka plant plans to soldier on by using liquefied natural gas for thermal power generation, its shutdown was the catalyst that finally prodded the Japan Automobile Manufacturers Association (JAMA) into adopting a long-discussed rotating power-rationing plan. As Bertel Schmitt of The Truth About Cars describes it, the 3 carmakers with production facilities served by the Hamaoka power plant (Toyota, Suzuki and Mitsubishi) will rotate days off amongst themselves, while Nikkei later added that “(JAMA) has decided to shut down production at auto plants on Thursdays and Fridays between July and September as a summer power-saving measure. Automakers will instead operate their plants on Saturdays and Sundays.”

Add to the above manufacturing woes the strong Japanese yen (a point touched upon in the second paragraph of this story) and you have a clear and compelling case for Toyota to move as much manufacturing capacity out of Japan as possible. The carmaker needs an exchange rate of 85 yen per U.S. dollar to break even. Yet, as we write this, each dollar only brings back to Japan barely 80.8 yen. Addressing the obvious need to tackle this situation lest Toyota find itself forced to cut back on its historically high Japanese manufacturing presence (38% of its vehicles, versus Honda and Nissan’s 25%), Bertel Schmitt tell of a curious good cop/bad cop exchange between Toyota President Akio Toyoda and his Chief Financial Officer Satoshi Ozawa. Toyoda said that:

“(I am trying) hard to preserve jobs in Japan. Toyota was born in Japan, raised in Japan and is now a global company. I love Japan, and I want to keep the tradition of manufacturing strong here…The auto industry has a very broad reach, and we have the ability to drive Japan’s recovery during these very tough times…By enlisting the cooperation of you, the media of Japan, I hope you can generate a strong force for creating a better environment for the manufacturing sector, so that it can remain viable in Japan. We are a carmaker which has a strong desire to sustain and preserve the manufacturing base here in Japan and I hope I can enlist your support and cooperation.”

while Ozawa rhetorically asks:

“How much longer should we insist on producing in Japan? I feel strongly that our efforts may have exceeded the limits of what is possible in dealing with the yen’s impact. The current valuation of the yen represents the limit for conducting manufacture in Japan. Our strongest competitors are the German manufacturers and the Korean manufacturers, they enjoy their cheaper domestic currencies. There is a huge competitiveness gap between ourselves and these competitors because of the exchange rate… From the viewpoint of risk diversification, some people may argue for relocating production in Japan. If the negative exchange rate factors continue to stay, that relocation will take place not within Japan, but outside of Japan. And once that takes place, it will result in a complete hollowing out of the Japanese industrial base. To avoid that I hope that appropriate countermeasures or appropriate policies will be taken, so that the hollowing out can be avoided…As long as the president (Akio Toyoda) is saying, ‘Let’s keep fighting and get through this’ we will do that. But as the one responsible for the coffers, I have to say that the current environment makes it very, very difficult.”

Ultimately, though, Akio Toyoda admitted that

“I fully understand that we can’t go on with just a desire to protect manufacturing in Japan.”

Bloomberg notes that the stronger yen cut operating profit by 290 billion yen ($3.6 billion) in the fiscal year ended March 31. That’s more than the 110 billion-yen cost from the 9-magnitude temblor and tsunami during the last 2½ weeks of the 2011 fiscal year. As Jim Hall of 2953 Analytics predicts, “You’re going to see more investment from (Toyota) in southeast Asia, more in China, though it’s trickier there because they work with two local partners. They’ll probably expand in Europe as well, with a focus on eastern Europe.”

Prospective Toyota, Scion or Lexus buyers will probably be concerned over more mundane matters of product availability. Mark Rechtin of Automotive News informs us that the company can still build every model in its U.S. lineup, although that may not be true by the end of this month. Rechtin, amply citing Randy Pflughaupt, head of sales administration for Toyota Motor Sales U.S.A., sheds some insight into how the crisis has led to changes in the way dealers order cars. Toyota typically has allowed dealers to put in orders for specific vehicles about two months ahead of delivery. For North American-built vehicles, the window for dealers has been cut to about two weeks before it is built, while for Japan-built vehicles, dealers now cannot place an order until a vehicle is already on a ship coming across the Pacific Ocean. While there is currently a big level of uncertainty of what will be built and when it will be built, Pflughaupt reassures us that Toyota won’t load up every single vehicle with factory options to extract more profit from each one that is sold. He also noted that the post-recall crisis decision to grant individual global regions more decision-making autonomy and improve communications between the company’s sales, distribution and manufacturing arms greatly benefitted post-quake response. As Pflughaupt recalls, “We had this team all put together. We had the roles, structure and ability to mobilize it. Within eight hours of the quake hitting, we were off and running.”

Bob Carter, Toyota’s group vice president for U.S. sales, said that the company’s 47-day supply of vehicles at the start of May varies by model, with Toyota Prius currently at a less than 10-day supply. Yet, as is usually the case with Prius, there is a mass of conflicting information out there. HybridCars via Reuters reminds us that Prius sales are up 51½% in the first three months of 2011 and that “most of the cars heading to dealers are spoken for and those that aren’t are often snapped up as soon as they arrive at dealerships”, with those that usually stock about 30 Priuses now are suddenly reduced to a handful of new models with a limited selection of trim packages and color choices, plus one or two used cars. On the other hand, Edmunds Auto Observer notes that Prius sales in April plummetted by 33%, with unsold cars at most dealerships. Other Toyota-brand hybrids were also down versus the previous month, with Camry Hybrid off 23% percent and the Highlander Hybrid down 52%. The Lexus side of the family was more of a mixed bag. The brand’s newest hybrid, the CT 200h was a victim of post-quake production constraints, with April’s 875 cars sold a huge 60% drop from March’s 2199 sales, and RX 450h sales declined by 19%. On the other hand, Lexus’ 3 remaining hybrids (HS 250h, GS 450h and LS 600hL) saw nominal sales gains in April over March.

Lest you think everything is doom and gloom, there are some bits of good news and progress. A Toyota Global News release updates the earlier timeline for production recovery with a projected ramp up of production starting in June 2011 on a global basis, rather than the earlier July in Japan and August outside Japan plans. June production should be at approximately 70% of normal on a global basis, depending on the region and the vehicle model. The ultimate goal of a return to normal production in the November-December 2011 time frame remains unchanged.

As to more specific North America plans, the Toyota USA Newsroom and Joseph Lichterman of Automotive News provide some guidance, noting that Toyota’s Avalon, Camry, Corolla, Highlander, Matrix, Sequoia, Sienna and Venza are expected to return to normal 100% production levels (two production shifts five days per week) some time in June, while Toyota Tacoma, Tundra, RAV-4 and Lexus RX 350 output in North America will remain at current reduced production levels. Also, the 150 individual components whose procurement was particularly troublesome have now been whittled down to 30. In addition, Christie Schweinsberg of reports that “Toyota’s new Blue Springs, Mississippi, plant is on track to open this fall, despite capacity shortfalls at other Toyota North America plants”. Helping the process along, no doubt, is the fact that much of its Corolla-building tooling comes from the shuttered Fremont, California NUMMI facility. To be precise, Blue Springs acquired NUMMI’s main press, which stamps 17 different body panels, and roughly 70%-75% of the weld shop equipment also comes from the California plant. The Blue Springs’ facility’s vice president in charge of production and administration support, David Copenhaver, proudly reminds us that, “the time lapse from last June’s construction restart to production launch this fall is the shortest we’ve ever had in history for a new plant and a new vehicle.”

Meanwhile, halfway around the world, Reuters informs us that Toyota’s trio of Thai manufacturing facilities (the Samrong plant in Samutprakan and the Gateway and Banpho plants in Chachoengsao) will return to normal production on Monday 23 May, two weeks earlier than previously predicted.

More good news is that the Xirallic paint additive sourced solely from Merck KGaA’s Onahama factory in Japan is now newly available, as production was restarted on Sunday 8 May, about 3½ weeks ahead of originally-scheduled plans. The company is also looking to make the pigment at a second plant in Germany. Unlike Ford and Chrysler, which publicly released a list of car paints affected by the almost 2 month-long lack of the Xirallic additive, Toyota never followed suit, but diverse sources speculate that Lexus’ Matador Red Mica, Stargazer Black and Cerulean Blue Metallic, as well as numerous Toyota and Lexus shades of white were most affected.

Finally, Autoblog and San Antonio, Texas CBS-TV affiliate KENS 5 inform us that, during non-production time (currently Mondays, Fridays and half days Tuesday thru Thursday), workers at the local Toyota Tundra and Tacoma production facility may earn their pay either by completing on-site training or helping to build homes for Habitat for Humanity. A Toyota spokesperson said this effort is all about giving back, respecting people and constantly improving. Ah, yes, the spirit of Kaizen, even in the midst of adversity.

We last checked in on the Pleiades-logoed carmaker on Wednesday 13 April, where we wrote about the U.S. Lafayette, Indiana plant’s schedule until Monday 25 April. Yet, even as Automotive News’ Crisis in Japan sidebar reported the resumption of full eight-hour shifts of production for Legacy, Outback and Tribeca models in Indiana from Tuesday 26 April thru Thursday 26 May, the publication’s own Hans Gremel reported that Subaru’ U.S. auto production will limp along at 80% of normal levels until summer and gradually ramp up to normal by November. Vehicles are currently being assembled from parts in inventory, and sizable shipments of new parts from Japan should come around August. The company’s Japanese assembly plants are also operating at limited output.

Subaru’s Consolidated Financial Results and Year-End Financial Results for the 2011 fiscal year reported an annual operating profit of 84.1 billion yen ($1.1 billion), about three times the 27.4 billion yen booked in 2009/10 and the carmaker’s highest in 9 years. This was tempered by a decline in domestic Japanese sales, the loss of 15,000 car sales in the 2½-week aftermath of the earthquake and a 7.4 billion yen ($89.3 million) charge in the fourth quarter to cover quake-related costs, including 2.5 billion yen ($30.2 million) to repair plant facilities and dealerships.

The mostly stellar numbers were a bit overshadowed by other news. Announced jointly with the 2011 fiscal year numbers were the ascention of (Subaru parent) Fuji Heavy Industries President and Chief Executive Officer Ikuo Mori to the Chairman/CEO position while current Corporate Executive Vice President and head of Subaru’s domestic sales Yasuyuki Yoshinaga becomes President and Chief Operating Officer as well as other executive moves. Also, Japan’s Nikkan Kogyo, via AutoWeek reports that Subaru has decided to stop research and development of a next-generation Tribeca. Although no timetable is given for the end of production of the current version, its dismal sales of only 910 units in the year through April, and its occupying valuable production space at Subaru’s Indiana plant better devoted to building the far more popular Outback and Legacy models hint at this happening sooner rather than later.

When we last checked on Toyota’s small car-building affiliate Daihatsu, production had restarted at just 2 of the company’s 4 Japanese facilities. Since then, subsequent updates on Daihatsu’s official English-language News page expanded the timeline as follows:

Monday 18 April: Scheduled production restart at the Head Plant at Ikeda in Osaka Prefecture and at the Kyoto Plant. Production at all 4 Daihatsu facilities is at 50% of normal capacity thru Thursday 28 April.

Friday 29 April thru Thursday 5 May: All facilities closed for the spring Golden Week holidays.

Friday 6 May: Restart of vehicle production with two-shift operations at the Shiga Plant, and at both Plant 1 and Plant 2 of the Kyushu Oita facility, including production of aftermarket/replacement parts and of parts for overseas production and knocked-down kits for overseas assembly.

Tuesday 10 May: Restart of vehicle production with one-shift operation at the Head (Ikeda) Plant and at the Kyoto Plant, including production of aftermarket/replacement parts and of parts for overseas production and knocked-down kits for overseas assembly.

English-language commentary and analysis on Daihatsu’s 2011 fiscal year is not readily available, save for a stray “the company booked a big jump in annual income” remark. In fact, other recent Daihatsu-related information revolves around Malaysia’s largest carmaker, Perodua, itself 35% owned by Daihatsu. With Malaysia being Daihatsu’s largest market outside Japan, it is to be expected that the company would focus much of its resources there. The local Paul Tan blog informs us that Perodua has weathered the post-Japan earthquake environment reasonably well. While around 23 engine components and accessories, plus paint, are sourced from Japan, production cutbacks since March were limited to the elimination of overtime and weekend production, with both shifts remaining. Overtime is expected to be restored some time around June or July.

Meanwhile, a Bloomberg report suggests that Perodua will accelerate the construction of a planned facility that will build electronic automatic transmissions to begin late this year and start actual production in late 2012. The factory will initially serve the Malaysian domestic market, before beginning exports a few years later, possibly including to Japan.

The majority-owned-by-Toyota truckmaker informed us, via the Hino Global website’s 2011 News Release page that reduced production took place from Monday 18 April thru Wednesday 27 April and, after a break for the Golden Week holidays, resumed, again at a reduced pace, from Tuesday 10 May thru Friday 3 June. Bloomberg, meanwhile, informs us that the maker of buses and trucks reported a net loss of 10 billion yen for the fiscal year ended March after last month’s earthquake and tsunami hurt sales.

The other Japanese truckmaker in Toyota’s orbit (albeit minority-owned in this instance) reports nothing new on the production front, and its sole bit of official news since last month is a plethora of PDF document links in support of its 2011 fiscal year results. Far more compelling, though, are rumors that Volkswagen seeks to buy into Isuzu to add it to its sphere of influence on global truck production that already includes Germany’s MAN and Sweden’s Scania. The ramifications of that possibility, though, will be discussed in a separate future Kaizen Factor story.

While Aston Martin’s ties to Toyota are limited to a personal friendship between Toyota head Akio Toyoda and his Aston Martin counterpart Dr. Ulrich Bez, forged over years of competing at the 24 Hours of the Nürburgring (and sharing a garage/pit area at last year’s race), as well as facilitating Aston Martin the Toyota iQ as the basis for the sports car maker’s CO2-lowering gambit, the Cygnet, a heartwarming gesture by Dr. Bez deserves a mention here. In his own words:

“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.”

Indeed, as Autoblog informs us, Ulrich Bez will donate his personal Aston Martin Rapide shown above, a UK specification, right hand drive model built in late 2009 and bearing chassis number F00039. Its Concours Blue exterior contrasts with an Obsidian Black leather interior with Falcon Grey top-stitching and black carpets offset by walnut veneers. The Bonhams auction house will waive its commission for this particular lot that will be auctioned on Saturday 21 May at Aston Martin’s hometown of Newport Pagnell.

Photo Credits:
Photo 1: Koji Sasahara / Associated Press
Illustration 2: Toyota Global site
Photo 3: Aston Martin / Autoblog

From earthquakes and a tsunami to…tornadoes!? *UPDATED*

Lately, it seems that Toyota can’t catch a break from Mother Nature’s wrath and fury. We’ve certainly been diligent in reporting on the aftermath of the Great East Japan Earthquake and the tsunami and aftershocks that followed, and now, half a world away, another Toyota facility is down but not out because of a natural disaster. A swath of tornadoes that hit the southeastern United States on Wednesday 27 April and winds that reached speeds of 200 mph (322 kph) struck particularly hard in the Tuscaloosa, Alabama area that is the home of a number of foreign carmakers’ U.S. assembly facilities. With major U.S. news outlets such as the Associated Press, Reuters and Bloomberg rightfully focused on general news from the impacted areas, it is trade paper Automotive News that brought us an initial and follow-up report on the aftermath of the tornadoes insofar as carmaking facilities. The tornadoes that claimed at least 339 lives across seven states, including at least 248 in Alabama, caused no direct damage to Hyundai’s plant in Montgomery (well south of the Tuscaloosa area) nor to Honda’s facility in Lincoln (in the eastern part of the state). Mercedes-Benz’s plant in Vance, just north of Tuscaloosa, ultimately suffered just minor siding and roof damage, and with electric power on in that area, the company has announced that production of GL, M, and R class SUVs and crossovers will resume on Monday 2 May.

Slightly more affected is the engine-making Toyota Motor Manufacturing, Alabama (TMMAL) facility in Huntsville that currently assembles 4-liter 1GR-FE V6 as well as 4.6-liter 1UR-FE and 5.7-liter 3UR-FE V8 engines for Toyota’s Tundra and Tacoma pickups and Sequoia SUV. While the plant itself saw minimal damage, the tornadoes ripped down utility lines in the vicinity and, as of Friday 29 April, the TMMAL facility remained without power. This may be a moot point for now, however, given Toyota’s current no-production-on-Mondays schedule in the aftermath of the Japanese natural disasters. As in Japan, though, it remains to be seen how local automotive parts suppliers have been affected, although early reports cite, at worst, a Toyota-like situation of minimal-to-no-damage with a lack of electric power.

Although Alabama’s travails appear to be notably less severe than Japan’s, we can’t help but wonder if the plan to start assembly at the TMMAL facility of 2.5-liter 2AR-FE and 2.7-liter 1AR-FE 4-cylinder engines (as found in Toyota Camry, RAV4, Scion tC and Toyota Highlander, Venza and Sienna) by summer 2011 (as noted in Toyota’s USA and Global Newsrooms) has been pushed back. As an aside, we’d like to note that the Alabama engine plant is the only facility outside Japan that builds Toyota V8 engines.

Photo Credit: CBS News

Saturday 7 May UPDATE:

The Toyota USA Newsroom informed us on Thursday 5 May that Toyota will make a $1 million contribution to the American Red Cross to support relief efforts for victims of the recent outbreak of tornados in the Southern, Midwestern and Eastern regions of the United States. In addition, Toyota will match employee contributions to the American Red Cross. The company will also provide additional support and assistance to those Toyota employees who have lost their homes.

As Toyota announces North America, China and Thailand production cuts, a roadmap for a return to normalcy emerges

With Toyota having set its pared-down post-earthquakes and tsunami Japan production schedule all the way until Friday 3 June, it is hardly surprising that the carmaker’s other production locales would soon follow suit. Here is how those plans currently stand:

North America
News releases on both the USA and Global Toyota Newsrooms extend North America production cutbacks beyond the previously-announced Monday 25 April. The new order calls for resumption of production on Tuesday 26 April thru Thursday 2 June, with a pattern of Tuesday/Wednesday/Thursday production at 50% capacity (or 4-hour workdays, according to Reuters) and no production on Mondays and Fridays. In addition, each North American production locale will have a full week’s shutdown within that time period. In Canada it will be the week of Monday 23 May thru Friday 27 May (in conjunction with the scheduled Victoria Day holiday), while in the United States it will be the week of Monday 30 May thru Friday 3 June (in conjunction with the scheduled Memorial Day holiday).

No layoffs are planned during this period, and plant team members will utilize non-production time for training and plant improvement activities. As executive vice president of Toyota Motor Engineering & Manufacturing North America (TEMA) Steve St. Angelo informs us, “We are trying to continue production as much as possible and keep our workforce intact in order to facilitate a smooth transition back to full production when all parts are available.” As to the impact of these extended production cuts, Automotive News‘ Mark Rechtin calculates that production 3 days a week at 50% capacity translates into plants operating at 30% of total capacity each week because of the additional two days of idle time. A Bloomberg article further calculates that Toyota’s sales in the U.S. could drop as much as 10% according to analyst Jesse Toprak, while Toyota spokesman Paul Nolasco cites lost production of 150,000 units in North America from March 11 to June 3.

An official Global Newsroom press release informs us that Toyota’s numerous China joint ventures (many of them in conjunction with the FAW [First Automobile Works] Group) will carry out production at 30% to 50% of normal from Thursday 21 April thru Friday 3 June due to parts supply difficulties. Also, as a consequence of this production adjustment, Toyota-related plants in China will observe the annual July summer holiday period early, in the end of April or at the beginning of May. Bloomberg cites Toyota spokesman Paul Nolasco as estimating a loss of 80,000 units in China from March 11 to June 3. In 2010, Toyota made 1,458,000 units at its plants in North America and 770,000 in China.

Toyota’s trio of Thai manufacturing facilities (the Samrong plant in Samutprakan and the Gateway and Banpho plants in Chachoengsao), whose output includes Yaris, Vios (Belta/Yaris sedan), Altis (Corolla sedan), Prius, Camry (including Camry Hybrid), Hilux Vigo and Fortuner (pickup truck and SUV variants, respectively, of Toyota’s IMV [Innovative International Multi-purpose vehicle] project) models, also imposed production cutbacks. These follow the North American pattern of 50% (or half-day) capacity Tuesday thru Thursday and no production on Mondays or Fridays from Monday 25 April thru Friday 3 June. Reuters adds that Toyota lost the production of about 10,000 units during the first two weeks after the earthquake and analysts expected it would lose more until the company can resume overtime.

What happens in June and beyond?
With many of Toyota’s latest production communiqués ending with some variant of “production plans beyond June 3 will be determined at a later date” or “a decision on production after June 3 will depend on the parts-supply situation”, it was mildly surprising to some pundits that press releases on Toyota’s official USA and Global Newsrooms, plus a statement on the latter from Akio Toyoda included a roadmap of tentative predictions on a return to normalcy. Here is the timetable laid out:

July 2011: Projected ramp up of production in Japan, depending on vehicle model.

August 2011: Projected ramp up of production outside Japan, depending on region and vehicle model. The month’s lag is due to the time required to ship parts from Japan to overseas plants.

November-December 2011: Projected return to normal production, likely accompanied by overtime to make up for previously lost production.

Akio Toyoda, president of Toyota Motor Corporation said in his official press release

“To all the customers who made the decision to buy a vehicle made by us, I sincerely apologize for the enormous delay in delivery. Immediately after the earthquake, Toyota, like others, sent its employees into the disaster zone to join forces with our plants, dealers and suppliers to take steps toward recovery. I, too, visited the affected areas several times. I saw people’s efforts first hand, and I was filled with confidence that their hard work would make possible a quicker recovery of production”.

and was further quoted by Reuters and Hans Greimel of Automotive News as follows:

“By telling dealers the timing of the recovery, they can have a better conversation with their customers. Dealers right now cannot talk to their customers about delivery timing. They can’t talk about specifics. Sales people are having a difficult time…With this many aftershocks, including one last night (Thursday 21 April) in the area around Tokyo, we’ve seen some of the recovery work thrown back to square one many, many times. Because of such things, it can reverse the progress being made. So it is difficult to read what will happen. In that sense it’s difficult to say what the impact on production volumes or earnings will be.”

Greimel’s article also contains these salient passages:

Toyota President Akio Toyoda…outlined the timeframe – despite its being long-range and vague – to help dealers with planning. Until now, they have been hamstrung in pitching their products and handling customers because of looming uncertainty about inventories.

He wouldn’t speculate on how it would impact earnings or about how many units of production would be lost globally, with plants limping along for months to come.

Through the end of April alone, Toyota expects to lose 500,000 units globally.

Shinichi Sasaki, executive vice president in charge of purchasing, said models that share many commonized parts will be first returning to normal production.

Toyoda said the company is considering support to its dealers as sales sag. In Japan, that will entail help in seeking public support or in attracting after-service repair work.

He didn’t outline any plans for dealers overseas. Spokesman Masami Doi said actions to support U.S. dealers would be handled through its local sales arm, Toyota Motor Sales U.S.A.

“The best thing we can do for those dealers is supply cars as quickly as possible,” Toyoda said.

Toyota will also tweak procurement to better guard against supply shocks, Sasaki said. While it will stick with a just-in-time approach of keeping low parts inventories, it will spread risk better.

That will include moving more parts production overseas – especially lower tier suppliers, he said. That way, U.S. parts plants won’t be as reliant on imported subcomponents.

“We have to consider being able to procure the entire part locally,” Sasaki said. “We would like to ask our suppliers to consider setting up shop overseas.”

The Reuters article by Chang-Ran Kim and Nathan Layne notes that Toyota’s updated long-term predictions follow microcontroller chip supplier Renesas Corporation’s announcement of a sooner-than-expected resumption of production on June 15, thus relieving a key bottleneck in the resumption of Japanese (and, inded, worldwide) vehicle production. Several analysts struck a note of cautious optimism, with Deutsche Securities auto analyst Kurt Sanger saying that, “The market was worried about clarity on how long this could last, and Toyota provided a degree of that. It’s positive news”. Tetsuro Ii, chief executive officer of Commons Asset Management, added, “According to what we’re hearing directly from companies, it looks like the recovery on the ground is faster than people think, and Toyota may well restart production even faster than they stated in this announcement.”

Delayed production launches and lost sales titles
This cautious optimism, however, shouldn’t blind us to a number of other setbacks to be expected in the way of delayed production launches and the loss of sales titles that Toyota and Lexus have held for a number of years. Following on the delay of the expected late April Japanese Domestic Market launch of the new Toyota Prius v/Prius+, a Reuters report notes that North America’s Scion iQ launch, already postponed once, faces a second potential delay from its previously expected summer 2011 rollout. More clarity on the launch timing should emerge after the end of Japan’s Golden Week holidays on Monday 9 May, according to Jack Hollis, the vice president of Scion.

Toyota’s title as world’s largest carmaker is likely to be lost for 2011 when all is said and done. As an Associated Press report reminds us, Toyota first claimed the #1 title in 2009, maintaing it in 2010 by a slender 30,000 vehicle margin over #2 General Motors (8.42 million Toyota vehicles vs 8.39 million GM vehicles), and, as noted earlier in this article, Toyota production losses to date already far exceed that margin. In fact, some pundits believe that Toyota may, for 2011 drop all the way to #3, behind not only General Motors, but Volkswagen as well, no surprise given the latter two carmakers’ strength in the behemoth Chinese market.

Also imperiled, as Reuters, among others, remind us, is Lexus’ 11-year run as the leading luxury vehicle brand in the U.S. market. As Mark Templin, Lexus Division group vice president and general manager, noted:

“Originally, we had hoped to do 234,000 vehicles for the year, and we saw an upside depending on what happened in the marketplace even from there, but we know that probably won’t be a reality now. Unfortunately, we just really don’t know what we’re going to be able to build for the rest of this year. Sometime in the first week of May we’ll have a really good picture of our wholesale for May, but that won’t tell us a lot about June and July.”

With Lexus not having led any month in the U.S. this year, even before the earthquakes and tsunami struck Japan, at this point it’s anybody’s guess whether Mercedes-Benz or BMW will take the luxury sales crown this year, and even Cadillac is enjoying something of a resurgence.

Toyota’s Japan production plans for May and early June 2011, as U.S. sales prices are poised to rise

The last time we checked in on Toyota, Scion and Lexus’ Japan production schedule, the plan was set until the end of the traditional annual Golden Week holiday date of Monday 9 May. On Friday 15 April, however, Toyota announced via both its USA and Global Newsrooms that production will resume at all of Toyota’s Japanese carmaking facilities on Tuesday 10 May and continue until Friday 3 June. An important caveat, however, is that “production will proceed at approximately 50% of normal”, as it will be since the broad-based start of production today (Monday 18 April). Reuters estimates that this will cost Toyota an additional 120,000 production units on top of its previously-published calculation of 260,000 lost units through Friday 8 April. Plans beyond June 3 will be determined based on parts availability, since, as Toyota spokeswoman Shiori Hashimoto reminds us, the company is still having trouble procuring about 150 parts, primarily microconductors made by Renesas Electronics. Toyota’s schedule was very aptly summed up by Bertel Schmitt of The Truth About Cars as follows:

Basically, Toyota will open all its Japanese vehicle-production plants on Monday, April 18, and will run them on half steam until April 27. Then, Toyota will take the annual spring holiday a day earlier and close on April 28th. Toyota will extend the holiday for another full day and will start working on May 10. One day of these extended holidays was planned, the other was not. Production will then continue at 50 percent capacity through June 3. Which does not mean that all will return to normal in June…Once June comes around, Toyota will have had lost approximately half of its Japanese production in March, about two thirds in April, and half in May. Overseas shipments of cars and parts needed for overseas production will continue to suffer well into the summer.

Since Japan’s earthquakes and tsunami first walloped the country on Friday 11 March, it has been quite rare for a Kaizen Factor update not to include a mention of at least one country in the far-flung Toyota manufacturing empire slowing or temporarily shutting down a production facility, and this one is no exception. On Thursday 14 April, the Toyota Australia Newsroom informed us that, during May and, most likely, into June, the carmaker’s Altona facility in Victoria state will build Camry, Camry Hybrid and Aurion (a V6 Camry) models at approximately 50% of normal capacity, with May expected to see roughly 9600 units of the 3 models. From 9 May manufacturing plant team members will work half day shifts involving vehicle production and, where possible, training and plant improvement activities. Toyota Australia’s Executive Director of Manufacturing Chris Harrod said: “It is important to note that this is a necessary response to a short term supply issue and we intend to resume 100 per cent vehicle production as quickly as possible.”

Reuters also notes that Toyota’s Philippines factory at Santa Rosa City in Laguna province, which builds the Innova (a minivan variant of the IMV [Innovative International Multi-purpose vehicle] Third-World project and the country’s best-selling vehicle) and Vios (the current Toyota Belta/Yaris sedan) models, will be stretching its scheduled two-day Easter holiday into a five-day break by halting production for three days from Monday 18 April. The cause is given as the now-familiar shortage of car parts sourced from disaster-stricken Japan. A separate Reuters report also cites concerns that output at Toyota’s Chinese Guangzhou Automobile Group joint venture, while normal during April, would be more uncertain for May.

Back in Japan, a Bloomberg article by Makiko Kitamura and Yuki Hagiwara reports on a move that may seem somewhere between counterintuitive and insane to some: the expansion of Toyota’s manufacturing presence in the nation’s devastated Miyagi prefecture. Currently the home to the Central Motor Company facility that started building the Yaris just last January, it promises to be joined by additional Toyota facilities, as these excerpts from the Bloomberg article inform us:

Toyota Motor Corp., the automaker most affected by Japan’s record earthquake, plans to build an engine plant in the nation’s devastated Miyagi prefecture and will move a subsidiary’s production operations to the region.

Toyota Motor Tohoku Corp., a wholly owned subsidiary of the automaker, will start building the new engine plant within a few years in Miyagi prefecture as car production ramps up at auto plants owned by the carmaker in Ohira, Miyagi and nearby Iwate prefecture, said Managing Director Kozo Sakurai.

“This kind of disaster occurs only once in a thousand years,” Sakurai said in an interview last week at Toyota Tohoku’s plant in Taiwa, Miyagi, which makes anti-lock brake systems, axles and suspensions. “Earthquake risk is now higher for regions that haven’t yet been hit, so this is actually a chance for the Miyagi region.”

Toyota Tohoku already secured 324,000 square meters (3.5 million square feet) of land in April 2008 adjacent to the Taiwa plant to build 200,000 engines for compact cars a year, according to Sakurai and Miyagi prefecture.

Central Motor will begin transferring a factory from Kanagawa prefecture near Tokyo, which will be shut, to Ohira by the end of April, a month later than originally planned, (Central Motor’s Makoto) Moriya said. About 400 workers in Kanagawa will join 900 employees already in Ohira. Plans to add Corolla production at the plant are unchanged, he said.

Toyota suppliers have also built new factories in and around Ohira. Affiliate Toyota Boshoku Corp. began production of seats at a plant across the street from Central Motor last quarter. Primearth EV Energy Co., a joint venture between Toyota and Panasonic Corp., started producing batteries for hybrid cars at a new plant in Taiwa in January 2010.

Toyota, which began diversifying its production base in Aichi prefecture in central Japan in the late 1980s to Kyushu in the south and Hokkaido in the north, wants to increase sourcing from more suppliers in the Tohoku region to ease logistics issues, Sakurai said.

Manufacturing makes up about 12 percent of Miyagi’s economy, according to Governor Yoshihiro Murai. He had aimed to increase that ratio to 20 percent as a declining population and e-commerce undercut service industries, which account for 80 percent of the economy, he said in an interview in February.

“I am very grateful that none of the companies here in Miyagi or those that were planning to move to Miyagi have pulled out since the earthquake,” Murai said in an interview at his office in Sendai on April 12.

Before March 11, Miyagi had been in talks with five other auto parts suppliers considering setting up factories in the prefecture. While those talks have been put on hold they are likely to resume in a few months, Murai said.

“The Tohoku region has a very high-quality labor force,” Sakurai said. “We definitely want to forge more ties with the local supply base.”

Wouldn’t building vehicles relatively closer to the afflicted Fukushima Dai-Ichi nuclear plant mean the mass exportation of radioactive cars? While the Chicken Littles and dramamongers of the world would certainly fear and believe that, a new press release from the Toyota Global Newsroom addresses this issue, and reads as follows:

Regarding Measurement of Radiation Levels

Toyota Motor Corporation (TMC)—for the safety and peace of mind of its customers and other concerned parties—has started measuring the radiation levels of its export vehicles, parts for overseas assembly and service parts. As a result, it has found that such radiation levels are no different than that of the surrounding air, meaning there is no danger to human health.

These findings are reflected in the Japan Automobile Manufacturers Association (JAMA) announcement today that atmospheric radiation at the production sites and ports of shipment used by JAMA member companies is not high enough to impact human health. JAMA also said that radiation around vehicles was at the same low level, and it said it was confident users of vehicles produced in Japan could use such products with no concerns regarding radiation.

TMC will continue to work with JAMA to provide customer peace of mind.

The Truth About Cars adds that each carmaker tests about 10 vehicles per ship (out of a typical load of 5000 vehicles) for radiation.

Across the Pacific, United States Toyota and Lexus buyers will see rising prices versus last week, and they have nothing to do with the official MSRP increases Toyota announced on March 31st. Rather, The Car Connection cites pricing-intelligence firm TrueCar as anticipating that a good number of Lexus and Toyota models would see a sales transaction price increase of $100 or more between Tuesday 12 April and Tuesday 19 April due to diminishing supply in the face of steady-to-increasing demand. Here’s their list, with additional pricing information on certain models:

Lexus HS 250h. Pricing predicted to be $599 (or 1.6%) higher on average
Lexus IS (all variants)
Lexus ES 350
Lexus GS 450h / GS 460
. The GS 450h, in particular, is predicted to see a $560 (nearly 1%) jump.
Lexus LS 460
Lexus RX (all variants)
. The RX 450h, in particular, is predicted to see a $757 (or 1.5%) jump.
Lexus LX 570
Toyota Prius
. In the 5 weeks since the earthquake, the Prius has gone from selling for $300 under dealer invoice to at or slightly over MSRP. That’s a price hike of nearly $2000, and considering what TrueCar expects in the next week, will reflect a rise in transaction prices of nearly 10% since the quake.
Toyota Camry Hybrid. Prices are expected to go up 1.5% versus this past week.
Toyota Land Cruiser

In contrast, Edmunds Auto Observer reports far less dramatic and eye-popping price increases, with word of first week of March to the first week of April transaction price increases for the Toyota Prius of $500 (and a $1,000 jump since the first week of January), and Toyota Camry Hybrid pricing up about $500 over the last month. On average, Lexus average transaction prices jumped $130, while the Toyota brand’s increased by about $70. Scion vehicle sale pricing rose about $150 during the past month, or an average of 100.2% of MSRP from 99.4% during the first week of March. Edmunds also informs us that the auto industry’s overall “days to turn”, ideally a 60-day supply, has dipped lower than that for a number of car brands. For Toyota, it dipped to 60 from 71, while Scion saw a huge drop to 80-plus from a 120 day supply. An Automotive News story contains a number of informative passages that cite a couple of Toyota dealers’ predictions for May and June:

“We’re going to get basically nothing,” said Bob Page, owner of Page Toyota in Southfield, Mich. “Whatever inventory we have, let’s say it carries us 60 days. We’ll be pretty much out of product at the end of May.”

Meanwhile, Toyota and Honda dealers are seeing May vehicle shipments canceled as the automakers grapple with a shrinking pipeline of new vehicles.

Page said Toyota canceled his region’s first shipment of cars to be delivered in May. For the second half of May, Page said his region, which includes Michigan, Ohio, Kentucky and Tennessee, will only see about 400 to 600 new vehicles, compared with the usual 2,000 to 3,000 vehicles units per allocation.

“There’s no doubt that June is going to be a very, very tough month,” he said. “Unless they somehow get a lot of product for May allocation and June arrival, we’re not going to see much activity as far as cars.”

David Wittenmyer, general manager of Jim White Toyota in Toledo, Ohio, said he will get only a small number of Priuses, Venzas and Avalons in late May.

He said he has only 200 vehicles on the lot, in port and in transit, down from the usual 300.

Wittenmyer expects strong sales this month and next, “but I don’t know what happens in June,” he said.

Photo Credit: Reuters/Yukiro Nakao

Toyota Europe and Subaru U.S.A. announce production cuts

No sooner had we posted our 1-month anniversary update on the Japanese natural disasters’ aftermath and repercussions on Toyota and Subaru production that more news came our way. Here’s the latest information:

Following on the Thursday 7 April cancellation of planned overtime at Toyota’s United Kingdom facilities, Toyota Europe announced that production would be stopped Thursday 21 April thru Monday 2 May, while noting that Friday 22 April was a previously-scheduled holiday for Good Friday. Affected by this order are carmaking facilities in Burnaston, England (Toyota Avensis and Auris); Adapazari, Turkey (Toyota Verso and Auris); and Valenciennes, France (Toyota Yaris); as well as engine manufacturing factories in Jelcz-Laskowice, Poland, and Deeside, Wales. Seemingly unaffected, at this point, is the Toyota Peugeot Citroen Automobile Czech (TCPA) joint venture that builds the Toyota Aygo / Citroën C1 / Peugeot 107 triplets in Kolin in the Czech Republic.

Automotive News cites Didier Leroy, Toyota Motor Europe CEO as saying that, “Even though most of our parts come from European suppliers, we are experiencing gaps in our supply chain due to the situation in Japan. By adjusting our production in Europe, we are adapting to the current situation whilst not completely interrupting our deliveries of vehicles to our customers.” The report also adds that the shutdown is being planned around upcoming public holidays or school holidays to make it easier for employees to take the time off.

After working 4-hour long half-shifts on Monday 4 April and Friday 8 April, Subaru’s Lafayette, Indiana facility that assembles Legacy, Outback and Tribeca models will undergo full-day shutdowns on Friday 15 April, Monday 18 April and Monday 25 April. In an Automotive News article, Subaru of Indiana Automotive (SIA) spokeswoman Jennifer McGarvey states that during the three days of downtime, employees can choose to work full eight-hour paid shifts doing nonproduction activities such as training and maintenance.

Notably, this 3-day production shutdown brings Subaru in line with the Toyota Camry assembly line at the same Indiana facility, which had previously scheduled a shutdown that includes those same three days.

Photo Credit: Chris Paukert -Autoblog