Just as the Japan's automakers Toyota, Honda and Nissan regained its production levels from the March earthquake and tsunami that hit the country, they are facing another challenge -- the tremendous flooding in Thailand that has led to prolonged productions stoppages at the carmakers' operations in the major manufacturing center.
Supply chain disturbances have not struck offshore operations yet. However, if the flooding gets worse, it could affect facilities in North America or elsewhere that depend on components acquired from Thailand.
The typhoon-induced flooding has reportedly swamped nearly two-thirds of Thailand and killed around 280 people. Thailand is an Asian car-making powerhouse, with worldwide players preferring there for its free-trade agreements with other booming Southeast Asian markets.
On October 10, Toyota shut its three facilities in Thailand not because they were immediately impacted by the increasing waters but because its suppliers were flooded. With little indication of the water diminishing, Japan's No. 1 carmaker has prolonged its factory shutdowns through October 22.
No Toyota facilities outside Thailand have been idled yet due to untimely components deliveries from Thailand. However, the company is still studying the supply chain stability. Honda had to shut its single vehicle plant on October 4 due to components shortages.
Then on October 8, the floodwaters swamped the plant, pushing the carmaker to stop operations indefinitely. Honda spokesman Keitaro Yamamoto revealed that the facility's first floor is still under water, making it hard to forecast how things will go. Honda's facility in Ayutthaya has a yearly capacity of 240,000 automobiles, though none of those vehicles are exported to the U.S.
It was in 1967 when the iconic Toyota Hilux was released to the Japanese market and then to Europe a year after. Five years short of half a century, the Hilux continues to have a strong presence especially in the pick-up market. Toyota is releasing the 2012 Hilux with design changes done to both the exterior and the interior. For the interior, passenger convenience is enhanced to a new level while sensory quality all around the cabin has been improved. The instrument cluster of the driver was redesigned to make sure that meter clarity was enhanced.
There is also a new and more contemporary design for the steering wheel which has the grade-differentiated switchgear integrated to it. The way the horizontal center instrument cluster has been designed strengthens space and freedom offered by the cabin. This center has been divided into two separate sections. The lower part is where automatic and manual controls for the air-conditioning are placed.
Meanwhile the upper section has the Toyota Touch, a multimedia 6.1-inch touch-screen unit. In terms of cumulative sales, it is estimated that more than 13 million units of the Hilux have been sold worldwide since it was released until today. Just last year, global sales were reported to be 549,000 units, 25% better when compared to the year before that. For Europe alone, 21,886 units of the Hilux are reported to have been sold by 2010, which is almost 25% of the segment.
This meant that Toyota has maintained its leadership for the pick-up market for the third straight year. The new Hilux will be made available in at 135 countries around the world plus 36 countries in Europe. Toyota expects that for 2011, sales for the Hilux will reach around 26,000 units, ensuring that there is no stopping this model’s success.