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Global microchip shortage hits Toyota, Honda, Nissan, German automakers

TOKYO — Honda Motor Co. said it is weighing production cuts in Japan due to a global shortage of automotive microchips. Several other global automakers and suppliers also said they have been impacted. 

Honda plans to reduce domestic output by 4,000 units in January, a slowdown mainly affecting the Fit small hatchback at Honda’s Suzuka plant, the Nikkei newspaper reported on Friday. The bottleneck might result in the loss of tens of thousands of units through March for Honda, the report said. The cause is a tight supplies of computer chips for cars.

A Honda spokeswoman said the company is aware of the industrywide microchip shortage and is considering countermeasures. But it is too soon for Honda to say when the company might announce any output adjustments or how many vehicles might be impacted, she said.

At Toyota, the automaker notified employees at its pickup assembly plant in San Antonio, Texas, that it will slow production of the full-sized Tundra pickup by about 40 percent for the remainder of the month of January. Production of the hot-selling Toyota Tacoma midsize pickup, which is built on the same line and uses the same microchip, will continue at its current pace, a spokesman for the automaker said. 

That Toyota would prioritize Tacoma sales over Tundra isn’t surprising: U.S. sales of Tacoma set an all-time monthly sales record in December at 28,957 vehicles, up 40 percent from a year ago, while Tundra sales increased 39 percent to 12,124 units.

Tundra is also near the end of its life cycle, with a redesign undergoing final development right now. Still, both pickups remain in short supply; a Toyota spokesman said dealers have a roughly 20 day-supply of Tundras in stock, and a 19-day supply of Tacomas.

Meanwhile, Mercedes-Benz maker Daimler joined its German peer Volkswagen Group in announcing it’s affected by the industrywide supply bottleneck, without quantifying the impact. Nissan Motor Co. said it is adjusting production of Note hatchbacks.

VW, the world’s biggest carmaker, announced last month that it would need to adjust first-quarter manufacturing plans around the globe because of the shortage. The amount of VW car output lost could be in the low six-digit range, according to people familiar with the matter.

Suzuki Motor Corp. also is altering production, though there’s no plan at this point to idle factories, a spokesperson said. A Subaru Corp. representative said it’s been dealing with some parts-supply delays and may adjust output.

“The spread of the coronavirus has impacted procurement in semiconductors and related parts,” a Honda spokesperson said in a statement Friday. “We will address this issue by adjusting production and replacing car models.”

Nissan’s Oppama plant in Japan will reduce Note production this month, a spokesperson said, without giving details. The Nikkei said the company would cut output to 5,000 cars a month, from 15,000.

Robert Bosch GmbH and Continental AG, two of the world’s largest auto suppliers, acknowledged the chip shortage last month after VW’s announcement.

BMW AG said the automaker is in regular contact with its suppliers over the issue, though it hasn’t yet had to reduce or stop car production.

Separately, China’s GAC said its joint venture with Honda had received warnings on supply of certain models, but gave no details.

Dongfeng, which also has a partnership in China with Honda, did not immediately respond to a request for comment. Peugeot maker PSA Group has not been affected, a spokeswoman said Friday.

First warnings

Automakers and suppliers first sounded the alarm about potential supply chain problems last month, warning that it may hit auto production in the first quarter of 2021.

Global makers of semiconductors scaled back output during the pandemic lockdowns of early 2020. But now, these manufacturers are slow to catch up to demand that is rapidly ramping back up.

A massive fire in October at a chip plant owned by Asahi Kasei Microdevices, a unit of Asahi Kasei in southern Japan, has also damaged semiconductor supply.

Fueling the shortage is soaring demand for chips in digital devices such as phones and computers, which is diverting deliveries away from automotive customers.

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