The disaster in northeastern Japan is receiving blanket news coverage, but only in recent days have definitive stories emerged about its effects on commerce. Automobile plants southwest of the quake, tsunami and nuclear-affected region are shut down and supplies of Japanese cars and parts have been interrupted.
Truck plants, too, are idle as managers assess their situations and try to re-establish supply lines and obtain stable electrical power. How will this affect the four Japan-based truck importers in the U.S.?
In the past week we asked their U.S. offices about that, and the welfare of employees in Japan. They responded that information was scarce, and they are waiting for more. We got this note from Brian Tabel, retail marketing manager for Isuzu Commercial Truck of America:
"Thank you very much for your concern with our Japanese staff and their families. For everyone that we work with and their families are all OK. We are all thankful for that but still very concerned for what faces everyone in Japan.
"The plant in Fuijisawa has been closed all week. Isuzu Motors Limited management is assessing the supply chain issues and working with the Japanese government regarding scheduled blackouts. Both headquarters and the plant did not sustain any significant damage from the earthquake.
"We hope to know more over the weekend on the plan for business next week. On a positive note, our dealers, our ports and Pacific distribution center are full of inventory of trucks and parts."
This response came from Brian Wagner, marketing director for UD Trucks North America:
"Thank you for the kind words. We too are waiting and watching. Communication has been spotty and we a clinging to every communique we receive.
"Of the 9,500 employees that UD Trucks Corporation employees either directly or through dealer franchises in Japan, there are only two that have been confirmed dead, and only two other persons they have not been able to contact at this point.
"As far as how the disaster will effect production and supply, there is still a lot of information that is being gathered. Right now we do know the production facility is closed until March 21st . There have been reported damages, but as of right now it appears to be superficial to the facility and the plant is being inspected.
"Our parts distribution center in Gunma has pulled and released some emergency orders. One area UDT is focusing on is the supplier network (over 400 vendors) and how it has affected their facilities and production capabilities. UDNA is patiently waiting for more information and we hope to have more by Monday."
Earlier in the week, Glenn Ellis, vice president, marketing, for Hino Trucks, had this comment:
"From what we are hearing, all of the Hino people are safe at this point. Our plants are not in the affected areas. However, we do have some suppliers who are in the affected regions but it is too early to tell if or what the impact may be to our plant."
Todd Bloom, president and CEO of Mitsubishi Fuso Truck of America, likewise had little information to share earlier this week:
"At this point we are assessing the situation. Offices and plant are okay but we are trying to evaluate the supply chain, shipping, etc. Too early to say anything but I'll keep you posted."