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JAPAN 'QUAKE: Nissan chief sees "pretty minimal" impact overseas

By just-auto.com editorial team | 17 March 2011

Nissan Motor sees little impact on overseas production from the disaster in Japan, and has enough parts in stock at European plants to run for about six weeks, a senior executive has said.

"It only takes one supplier to stop a car plant," senior vice president Andy Palmer said in a phone interview with Reuters from his office in Tokyo as aftershocks rattled the building.

However, he added: "I think the impact on our overseas facilities is going to be pretty minimal."

The news agency noted that Nissan's facilities outside Japan - including plants in the United States, Europe, Thailand and China - usually source about 95% of parts locally, while some of the remainder does come from Japan.

"I know that we have got about six weeks of cars in supply for our European facilities for example," Palmer said, adding that supplies of parts had left Japan by boat before the earthquake hit.

Some suppliers to Nissan have had facilities damaged by the tsunami that struck the country after the earthquake, while others are inside the exclusion zone around the stricken Fukushima nuclear plant, Palmer said.

"In those cases we have to start looking for alternative sources," Palmer said. "But it is better if we can get the suppliers back up and running. We have got engineers out with the suppliers trying to help them."

"To the best of my knowledge none of the suppliers we are in distress with are amongst the ones that we cannot counter-source," he said.

Nissan has restarted output at two Kyushu plants [in southern Japan] with enough inventory to produce until Saturday, while the Oppama, Tochigi, Yokahama and Nissan Shatai plants are idle until Sunday.

"They should start work again on Sunday, with the same caveat - they can run with existing stocks. The question will be the replenishment of that stock," Palmer said.

Vehicles built will be destined for Japan as facilities to export vehicles are not yet up and running, Palmer said.

Palmer said Nissan's JATCO unit, which makes transmissions, would be up and running "reasonably quickly".

Palmer said the disaster would mean further delivery delays for the new Leaf electric car, although the Oppama facility where the cars are built would restart on Sunday.

Deliveries of the Leaf hatchback, which went on sale late last year in the United States, have been hit in past months by a production bottleneck.

Nissan last month pledged that US customers registered to buy a Leaf would have it by the end of the summer and said production would ramp up more in March and April.

The Leaf has also gone on sales in Japan and some European markets. "There is certainly an effect and there certainly will be some delays. We are working our hardest to make sure we mitigate that as much as possible," Palmer said.