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Japan quake could cause parts shortages

Date: 07 April 2011   |   Author: Rachel Burgess

Businesses should prepare for parts shortages when repairing or maintaining fleet cars as a result of the Japan disaster, according to CAP expert Martin Ward.

The situation remains unclear for the motor industry following on from the earthquake, as manufacturers including Honda and Toyota as well as Peugeot and Renault wait to see how car production will be affected by the closure of Japanese factories making vehicle components, particularly electronics and brake parts.

While this may halt new car production leading to longer lead times, maintenance of already-owned cars could also become a problem. "For fleets and leasing, it might mean not being able to get the part for your car and there will be more vehicles off the road - perhaps for months rather than a few weeks or days," said Ward.

He added that fleets should be making plans in case this happens, which could include use of rental vehicles or increased numbers of cars on fleet to cover all eventualities.

BVRLA chief executive John Lewis said car production is expected to return to normal pretty quickly. There is more concern over the supply of many automotive - particularly electronic - components, "which could have an impact on car production and maintenance across Europe," he said. "As usual, the leasing and fleet management industry will try and mitigate the impact on their customers by using their extended supply networks to source the required parts and vehicles. It is too early to say what the impact will be, but the rental industry will also be on hand to meet any resultant mobility requirements."

Meanwhile, carmakers are still unclear what the outcome of the plant closures will be. The SMMT said it is "not aware of any immediate issues impacting UK supply or production, but cannot rule out that there may be some disruption in the coming weeks".

Despite a parts shortage for General Motors, which has resulted in US plants shutting down production temporarily, Vauxhall UK insisted there has been "no effect on manufacturing operations", adding that it is "covered in the short term". And French brand Peugeot said, after changing a Japanese parts supplier to Europe, it has "no issues".

Japanese brand Honda, which produces around 80% of its UK-sold cars in Swindon, said it has enough components to make cars at the factory until the end of April. A spokesman said: "There is no problem in terms of lead time. We have sufficient stock to meet current and potential demand over the next two to three months from already-built cars and cars in the pipeline."

Toyota's plant in Japan returned to work on 21 March, so while a spokesman said there might be "a slight gap" from halted production, the key fleet cars, the Prius, Avensis, Auris and Yaris, will be unaffected thanks to being built in Europe.

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