Tag Archive: Toyota Motor Corp.


Japan utility delays decision on halting reactors

A police officer walks in rubble at recovery operation in the area destroyed by the March 11 earthquake and tsunami in Kesennuma,  Miyagi Prefecture,http://news.yahoo.com/s/ap/20110507/ap_on_bi_ge/as_japan_earthquake

By MARI YAMAGUCHI, Associated Press Mari Yamaguchi, Associated Press 1 hr 48 mins ago

TOKYO – A Japanese power company postponed its decision Saturday on a government request that it halt three reactors at a coastal nuclear plant until safety measures can be improved to guard against future earthquakes and tsunamis.

Shutting down the reactors would likely worsen power shortages expected this summer.

On Friday, Prime Minister Naoto Kan said he had asked Chubu Electric Power Co. to suspend operation of the reactors at the Hamaoka Nuclear Power Station in Shizuoka prefecture until a seawall is built and backup systems are improved. Though not legally binding, the request is a virtual order.

The government is reviewing the safety of the country’s 54 atomic reactors since a March 11 earthquake and tsunami crippled the Fukushima Dai-ichi nuclear plant in the north. The disaster left more than 25,000 people dead or missing on the northeast coast.

The Hamaoka plant, which is about 125 miles (200 kilometers) west of Tokyo in an area where a major quake is expected within decades, has been a major concern for years.

Chubu Electric executives failed to reach a decision after discussing the request Saturday afternoon and decided to meet again after the weekend, company official Mikio Inomata said.

At issue is how to make up for the power shortages that would result from the shutdown of the three reactors. Inomata said they account for more than 10 percent of the company’s power supply.

Chubu Electric has estimated maximum output of about 30 million kilowatts this summer with the three Hamaoka reactors running, with estimated demand of about 26 million kilowatts.

“It would be tight,” Inomata said, adding that officials are discussing the possibility of boosting output from gas, oil and coal-fueled power plants and purchasing power from other utility companies.

Kan said the shutdown request was for the “people’s safety.”

“If an accident occurs at Hamaoka, it could create serious consequences,” he said Friday.

He noted that experts estimate there is a 90 percent chance that a quake with a magnitude of 8.0 or higher will strike the region within 30 years.

Since the March 11 disasters, Chubu Electric has drawn up safety measures that include building a 40-foot-high (12-meter-high) seawall nearly a mile (1.5 kilometers) long over the next two to three years, company officials said. The company also promised to install additional emergency backup generators and other equipment and improve the water tightness of the reactor buildings.

The plant does not have a concrete sea barrier now. Sand hills between the ocean and the plant are about 32 to 50 feet (10 to 15 meters) high, deemed enough to defend against a tsunami around 26 feet (8 meters) high, officials said.

Shizuoka Gov. Heita Kawakatsu called Friday’s government request “a wise decision” and vowed to secure alternative sources of energy.

Residents of Shizuoka have long demanded a shutdown of the Hamaoka reactors. About 79,800 people live within a 6-mile (10-kilometer) radius of the plant.

The Hamaoka plant provides power to around 16 million people in central Japan including nearby Aichi, home of Toyota Motor Corp.

Automakers and other industries have had troubles with interrupted supply lines, parts shortages and damage to manufacturing plants because of the March 11 disasters.

The nationwide newspaper Yomiuri welcomed the government request to shut down the reactors despite concerns about a power crunch.

“The idea is to use the lesson we learned (from Fukushima),” the Yomiuri said, urging other utilities to also improve safety. “An accident and subsequent release of radiation could paralyze the entire country.”

Thousands of people joined an anti-nuclear march Saturday in Tokyo’s crowded Shibuya shopping and entertainment district, chanting “No nuke plants!”

The Fukushima Dai-ichi plant lost its power and cooling systems in the magnitude-9.0 earthquake and ensuing tsunami, triggering the world’s worst nuclear accident since Chernobyl.

Radiation leaks have forced 80,000 people living within a 12-mile (20-kilometer) radius of the plant to leave their homes.

Since the Fukushima crisis unfolded, officials have acknowledged that tsunami safety measures at Japanese nuclear power plants are insufficient.

Tokyo Electric Power Co., operator of the Fukushima plant, has said the tsunami that wrecked critical power and cooling systems there was at least 46 feet (14 meters) high.

It said radioactivity inside the No. 1 reactor building has fallen to levels deemed safe for people wearing protective suits to enter after workers rapidly installed air filtering equipment Thursday — their first entry since shortly after the tsunami. Workers are to begin preparations as early as Sunday to install a cooling system.

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Associated Press writer Shino Yuasa contributed to this report.

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GM likely to retake No. 1 sales spot from Toyota

FILE - This May 31, 2009 file photo shows a row of unsold 2009 Buick Lacrosse sedans at a General Motors dealership in the south Denver suburb of Englhttp://news.yahoo.com/s/ap/20110422/ap_on_bi_ge/us_gm_back_on_top

By TOM KRISHER and SHARON SILKE CARTY, AP Auto Writers Tom Krisher And Sharon Silke Carty, Ap Auto Writers 20 mins ago

DETROIT – General Motors is almost certain to claim the title of world’s biggest automaker this year, retaking the top spot from Toyota, which has been hurt by production problems since the Japanese earthquake and still can’t escape the shadow of major safety recalls.

The No. 1 title, a morale booster for the winner’s employees and managers, would cap GM’s remarkable comeback from bankruptcy.

GM’s sales are up, mainly in China and the U.S, the world’s top two markets. Its cars are better than in the past, especially small ones.

But even though GM came within 30,000 sales of Toyota last year and began strong in 2011, any sales victory this year has more to do with Toyota’s problems.

First, a series of big recalls has ballooned to 14 million vehicles worldwide and damaged Toyota’s reputation for reliability. That has spurred loyal buyers to look at other brands.

Second, a March 11 earthquake and tsunami in Japan curbed Toyota’s car production. On Friday, Toyota Motor Corp. said its factories worldwide won’t return to full production until November or December. That means buyers across the globe may not be able to get the models they want. Already the crisis has cost the company production of 260,000 vehicles.

Last year, Toyota sold 8.42 million cars and trucks, barely ahead of a resurgent GM, which sold 8.39 million. GM held the No. 1 spot from 1932 until 2008.

Here’s why GM is almost a lock to retake the lead this year:

A BETTER GM: General Motors Co. was dysfunctional three years ago, hobbled by enormous debt and a giant bureaucracy. Its quality was suspect, it lost billions, and it had few products other than pickups that buyers found appealing. After a government bailout, a leaner GM emerged from a 2009 bankruptcy with new vehicles and a focus on Chevrolet, Buick, GMC and Cadillac. Since then, GM has come up with hits including the Chevrolet Equinox small SUV, the Buick LaCrosse luxury car, and the Chevrolet Cruze compact. Its quality is better. Sales so far this year are up 25 percent in the U.S. and 10 percent in China. The efficient Cruze compact and Chevrolet Volt car both hit the market as U.S. gasoline prices started rising.

TOYOTA TROUBLES: Bad publicity from the recalls, mainly for cars that can accelerate without warning, was hurting Toyota long before the earthquake. The recalls began late in 2009, and came just as GM, Ford, Hyundai, and others introduced more competitive cars and trucks. With a bunch of nice alternatives and doubts about quality, customers who once dutifully returned to Toyota started considering other brands. Many Toyota models look old and need upgrades. Despite rebates and low-interest financing, Toyota was the only major automaker with lower U.S. sales last year. Sales are up 12.5 percent so far in 2011, but only at half the growth of GM.

Toyota is scrambling to keep factories open after the earthquake, and U.S. dealers expect to run out of some models. Already dealers are reporting shortages of the Prius gas-electric hybrid, a high-demand model because of gas prices.

Merle Gothard, general manager of North Park Toyota in San Antonio, says he’s not worried about GM retaking the title because it still has a tarnished image from bankruptcy.

“It’s important from a marketing standpoint,” he says. “But Toyota has other things going for it.” He notes that Toyota is still profitable and never took a dime of stimulus money from the government.

THE CHINA FACTOR: Toyota has nowhere near GM’s presence in China, now the world’s largest auto market. Through March, Toyota sold 208,000 vehicles there, but GM and its joint ventures sold more than three times that number. Growth in China by itself probably would have moved GM ahead of Toyota in worldwide sales. Toyota’s lead was only about one day’s worth of sales for GM.

CAVEATS: Toyota still has a loyal customer base that believes the cars are safe and will last forever. Many Toyotas run for hundreds of thousands of miles with little more than routine maintenance. It also has a reputation for fuel efficiency, led by the Prius.

GM would have to run into major problems to let No. 1 slip away this year. So far it has not been seriously hurt by parts shortages, but if some key electronic components from Japan can’t be made elsewhere, the company could run short of models. A new management team also is pushing to speed up introduction of new models, and that could hurt quality.

If GM takes No. 1 this year, it won’t crow much, says Jesse Toprak, vice president of industry trends and insights for TrueCar.com, an auto price tracking website.

“It’s because of (factory) capacity restrictions, and that’s not something they want to brag about,” he says.

Toyota resumes production at all Japan plants

Employees of Toyota Motor Corp. , arrive at a factory in Toyota, central Japan Monday, April 18, 2011. The company resumed production at all its Japanhttp://news.yahoo.com/s/ap/20110418/ap_on_re_as/as_japan_earthquake_automakers

By SHINO YUASA, Associated Press Shino Yuasa, Associated Press 1 hr 9 mins ago

TOKYO – Toyota Motor Corp. resumed car production at all of its plants in Japan on Monday for the first time since the March 11 earthquake and tsunami, but said the factories will run at half capacity due to parts shortages.

The world’s No. 1 automaker said it was still struggling to secure around 150 types of auto components. The magnitude-9.0 earthquake and ensuing tsunami destroyed parts factories in northeastern Japan, causing severe shortages.

The twin disasters forced Toyota to shut down all output in Japan except at three plants, which have been running at limited capacity since late March and early April to produce hot-selling Prius, Lexus and Corolla cars.

The 900 workers at Toyota’s auto plant in Miyagi, one of the worst-hit areas in the disasters, observed a minute’s silence for tsunami victims before starting work Monday. The quake and tsunami left nearly 28,000 people dead or missing. In Miyagi alone, police said over 8,400 people have been killed.

Toru Kuzuhara, president of Toyota subsidiary Central Motor Co. Ltd., which operates the Miyagi plant, said he hoped the resumption of auto production would help spur reconstruction efforts in the tsunami-battered region.

“We will make top-quality cars and deliver them to many customers as early as possible. I believe this will lead to broader reconstruction efforts in Miyagi,” he said.

Yasuhiro Tadokoro, an official at the Miyagi plant, said he felt relieved that the factory was again running.

“Finally, we can operate our plant. I am so relieved that we can get back to work for the first time since the tsunami,” he said.

The Miyagi plant — Toyota’s newest auto factory in Japan — began operations in January. The plant suffered minor damage due to the quake, Tadokoro said. Toyota makes Yaris compact sedans at the Miyagi factory for export to North America.

Other Japanese automakers have also had to halt or slow operations in the wake of the disasters.

Honda’s operation in Britain has been running at 50 percent of planned weekly production since April 11 due to shortages of parts supplied from Japan, a cutback expected to last until the end of May. The company announced Friday that it was extending slowdowns at plants in Canada and the U.S. until at least early May.

Toyota will keep production at all its Japanese plants at half capacity until April 27, and then halt output from April 28 to May 9, a period that includes Golden Week holidays when factories would normally close.

The company will resume production in Japan from May 10 to June 3 at half of normal levels. Toyota has said it will make a decision in coming weeks about production plans beyond that period.

It remains unclear when Toyota will return to full production in Japan, Toyota spokeswoman Shiori Hashimoto said. Last month’s disasters have caused Toyota a production loss of 260,000 cars, she said.

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Associated Press Business Writer David McHugh in Frankfurt contributed to this report.

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