In Japan, production of consumer brands popular in U.S. is halted after earthquake

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By Ylan Q. Mui
Thursday, March 17, 2011; 6:14 AM

Only 6.4 percent of U.S. imports come from Japan, but among those products are some of the most well-known consumer brands. Several Japanese manufacturers have shut down factories after last week's earthquake, with some sustaining damage and others conserving energy. Analysts say consumers are unlikely to see shortages for now, but they cautioned that the disaster's impact may hinge on how long it takes to bring Japan's manufacturing sector back to life. Here are the top four categories of imports from Japan, according to U.S. trade data:

AUTOS

Accounted for: 34.5 percent of U.S. imports from Japan in 2010, or $41.5 billion

Impact: Toyota and Nissan plan to open some plants in Japan on Thursday. Honda has said it will keep several of its facilities offline through Sunday.

Most Japanese cars sold in the United States are manufactured domestically, and automakers said they expect minimal disruptions. Honda, for example, said popular models such as the Accord and Civic Sedan are supported by North American suppliers. Nissan said it keeps a 50-day inventory of cars on the ground or in shipment.

In addition, parts that are manufactured in Japan tend to come from the southern region of the country, which escaped the devastation seen in the northeast, said Jessica Caldwell, senior analyst at Edmunds.com. "I wouldn't see a drastic impact," she said. "Inventories can definitely carry these manufacturers in for at least a month or so."

NUCLEAR REACTORS, BOILERS AND PARTS

Accounted for: 20.6 percent of U.S. imports from Japan in 2010, or $24.8 billion

Impact: This category comprises a wide array of products, including machinery to separate isotopes in nuclear reactors, aircraft engines and gas station pumps, and the sector's diversity makes it difficult to assess the impact of the disaster. The country's largest nuclear operator, Exelon, said it is too early to determine the effects.


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