Auto Supply Chain Feels Japan Quake Reverberations

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Japan's domestic auto industry has ground to a halt following last week's massive earthquake and tsunami. All the major auto makers there have scaled back production, and rolling blackouts could keep factories shutdowns. Shortages of parts produced in Japan could have an impact throughout the global auto industry.

LINDA WERTHEIMER, host:

The major Japanese carmakers have halted or severely scaled back production. Even companies unscathed by the earthquake face rolling electrical blackouts.

NPR's Sonari Glinton reports on how this affects the global auto industry.

SONARI GLINTON: Often, people talk about the U.S. car industry, the European car industry or the Japanese car industry as if they were these wholly separate entities.

Rebecca Lindland says that just not the case. She's an analyst with IHS Automotive.

Ms. REBECCA LINDLAND (Analyst, IHS Automotive): There is really just one industry these days. There's very few cars that are sourced completely from one region.

GLINTON: Lindland says the auto industry's supply chain is increasingly global and fragile.

MS. LINDLAND: So even something as small as, say, an astray that is specifically designed for an individual vehicle, you could potentially see the production of the vehicle being affected.

Mr. MICHAEL MCHALE (Subaru): Part of the automotive business is production and logistics management.

GLINTON: Michael McHale is with Subaru, which makes 55 percent of the vehicles it sells in the U.S. in the U.S. He says he's worried the Japanese disaster will have an almost immediate effect in dealers' showrooms.

Mr. MCHALE: As it happens at Subaru, our stocks have been pretty low for a while. We've been selling very well the last couple, three years, so we're a little bit concerned going into this situation. Our stocks were low to begin with.

GLINTON: The analyst Rebecca Lindland and Subaru's Michael McHale both say the lack of Japanese parts could potentially stall car production and sales around the globe.

Sonari Glinton, NPR News.

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