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:
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.”
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.
AUDIO AND TVS
Accounted for: 15.2 percent of U.S. imports from Japan in 2010, or $18.3 billion
Impact: Though popular brands such as Sony, Panasonic and Toshiba are based in the country, many of their products are manufactured in other Asian nations. Factories in Japan typically churn out only parts of those goods, or higher-end merchandise, said Stephen Baker, an analyst with market research firm NPD Group.
Sony has suspended operations at seven plants that make semiconductor lasers, lithium ion batteries and Blu-ray discs. SanDisk said there was “minimal” impact at two of its plants that make the chips used to store data in Apple’s iPhone and iPad, though some analysts are expecting SanDisk to raise chip prices in the future.
Consumer Electronics Association spokesman Jason Oxman said companies may be able to transfer production to other facilities until their factories are up and running.
CAMERAS AND MEDICAL EQUIPMENT
Accounted for: 5.1 percent of U.S. imports from Japan in 2010, or $6.1 billion
Impact: Two of the most popular camera brands, Canon and Nikon, reported damage to plants in Japan and are uncertain when they will be repaired. Fifteen Canon employees sustained injuries, and the company said some plants could be down for more than a month, forcing it to move production. Nikon also said some of its employees were injured during the disaster.