Lessons from 2011 disaster help Toyota overcome chip shortage – fr

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Lessons from 2011 disaster help Toyota overcome chip shortage – fr


Tokyo (AFP)

The lingering global shortage of microchips in the auto industry barely started production at Toyota, the world’s largest automaker, thanks to lessons learned after the 2011 tsunami disaster in Japan.

As the latest crisis sparked by skyrocketing demand for semiconductors has forced global automakers to revisit their production plans, Toyota has exceeded sales targets this year and plans to sell even more units in the United States. over the next 12 months.

Part of its success, experts say, is its decision to thoroughly prepare for disruption after the devastating earthquake, tsunami and nuclear crisis experienced in Japan 10 years ago.

The disaster left parts of Japanese industry on their knees for months, especially automakers, whose domestic supply chains were shaken.

Toyota suffered like its rivals and took six months to return to normal production, but the firm resolved not to let the same happen again.

“Toyota learned the lessons of the 2011 earthquake probably better than anyone,” said Christopher Richter, automotive expert and general manager of brokerage CLSA.

The Japanese giant has reviewed all of its suppliers, even the most indirect, giving it a better understanding of its supply chain and enabling it to react faster in times of crisis.

Faced with a global semiconductor shortage this year, “they were just much better prepared than any other automaker in the world,” Richter told AFP.

A source close to another Japanese automaker agreed.

“We all took action like this after Fukushima, but Toyota did its best and kept it going,” he said, referring to the nuclear power plant crippled by the tsunami.

The global auto industry faced severe headwinds during the pandemic, with lockdowns fueling declining sales, and a shortage of chips used in modern vehicles only compounded the problems.

Soaring demand for home electronics using semiconductors, along with a cold snap in the United States, a drought in Taiwan, and a fire at Japanese maker Renesas have created a perfect supply of storm-limiting chips. .

– Loyal suppliers –

Toyota pioneered the widely used “just-in-time” production model – where storage is kept to a minimum to keep costs down.

But as soon as it spotted the first signs of a chip shortage, the company turned things around.

“Toyota was the first automaker to adapt its supply chain management system from a purely ‘just in time’ model to a hybrid model where it stores more critical components such as semiconductors,” he said. said Joshua Cobb, automotive analyst at Fitch. Solutions.

“Toyota has always been a leader in the development of supply chain management systems, and other automakers tend to follow Toyota’s lead,” Cobb said.

German auto giants Volkswagen, BMW and Daimler, along with their US rival General Motors, all recently announced that they will change their supply and storage systems to build up more reserves.

But the Japanese company had a head start, and another crucial advantage: Most of its suppliers, including chipmakers, are Japanese companies, who “will prioritize sourcing from Toyota,” he said. Cobb said.

Toyota often owns shares and sometimes controls stakes in these companies, so it has “more control” over the situation, he added.

“It differs from other automakers, especially European and American manufacturers who source most of their components from Asian companies,” Cobb told AFP.

An industry source said Toyota also prioritizes good supplier relationships, ensuring consistently strong sales and pledging not to renegotiate fees after signing a contract.

All of these factors mean that Toyota often comes out on top.

“If we get orders from multiple customers at the same time, we need to prioritize the strongest and most stable,” the source said.

Announcing its results Wednesday, Toyota could point to the fruits of its preparations, exceeding its sales target with 9.9 million vehicles sold by all its brands in the fiscal year until March.

It is now targeting total sales of 10.5 million units in 2021-2022.

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