This guest blog was contributed by Sebastian Blanco, editor in chief of AutoblogGreen.
MNN has noted the possibility of a delay in the shipment of Toyota Priuses to the U.S. (sorry, Toyota, but Prii still sounds wrong), but the truth is that a lot of the auto industry was affected by the double whammy of the earthquake and tsunami in Japan.
Cleanup crews, aid workers and nuclear technicians are still busy taking care of the aftermath, but the tight network of suppliers and automakers is also feeling the effects. For hybrids and plug-in cars, these suppliers might provide specific items like semiconductors, electronic controllers and batteries, as well as general-use parts like wipers and tires. Not everyone in the chain was affected, but the disaster halted vehicle production in Japan and could hit even "all-American" cars like the Chevy Volt.
In the green car scene, the car that might be most affected aside from the Prius is the Leaf. By chance, 600 Leafs shipped out of Japan on the day before the quake struck, so the delays will take some time to be felt the U.S. Still, we know they're coming. This past weekend, Nissan emailed this note to people who have ordered a Leaf: "[As] a consequence of the earthquake and tsunami, a delay in the scheduled delivery date of your Nissan Leaf is unavoidable. We will refresh your 'my account' page with delivery updates as they become available."
While understandable and unavoidable, the delay will set back Nissan's efforts to pick up the pace of Leaf deliveries in North America. This is a car that's been closely watched by the media. The 600 cars on the boat represent more than three times as many all-electric cars as Nissan had delivered in the U.S. through the end of February — 173. (This is the most recent date for which figures were available.)
Other Nissan vehicles that may have their U.S. deliveries delayed include various Infiniti models. The exact reasons for the delays were not released, but they range from plant closures to infrastructure damage. Because of the widespread damage, other automakers will also need to push delivery dates back. Honda closed its manufacturing plants through this past weekend, but reports suggest that the facilities where hybrids like the Insight and CR-Z are assembled suffered only minor damage, so we don't expect the quake to have much of an impact on those deliveries. (The number of people buying them, on the other hand, does have an impact, and there's not much Honda can do about that.)
In the auto industry, the effects will be felt for months, at least. Of course, someone getting his or her car a few weeks late — even a car as technologically futuristic and breathlessly awaited as the Leaf — pales in comparison to the tremendous suffering that the earthquake/tsunami has had on Japan, where the effects will be felt for a lifetime. So let's take all of this in stride.
Also, if you've got a bit of money to spare, there are plenty of places to donate to aid efforts. One fitting option is to donate through Nissan. The automaker has given $500,000 to the Red Cross and announced it will match donations dollar-for-dollar for any money given through Nissan North America's Red Cross online donation site.
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