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Industry responds to Japanese earthquake

March 29, 2011
Filed under From the Editors

When the world learned of the devastation in Japan that followed an earthquake and tsunami on March 11, people everywhere were shocked and saddened.

Once that shock wore off and reality sunk in, big questions began to pop up in the industry. With the Big Four motorcycle manufacturers and suppliers for many industry companies located in the affected country, what would happen in the industry? How will this affect the Japanese OEMs? What about other manufacturers that rely on Japanese parts? How about North American arms of OEMs? And how will dealers be affected?

Unfortunately, many of those questions have yet to be answered. More than two weeks after the quake struck, Japan is still facing extensive recovery efforts. OEMs have undergone periodic shutdowns, not because their facilities were damaged but because of electrical shortages and affected suppliers.

Honda planned to reopen its motorcycle plant in Kumamoto, Japan, on Monday. Kawasaki Heavy Industries reported it planned no long-term shutdowns at its Akashi motorcycle production plant, and Yamaha Motor Corp. and Suzuki Motor Corp. are both running limited production.

Some OEMs have admitted effects could trickle down to North America eventually. Yamaha expects supply to be affected, though how is still unknown, said Bob Starr, general manager for national communications for Yamaha Motor Corp. U.S.A.’s motorsports group. Honda’s Gold Wing production is underway in Japan, but it’s uncertain if future operations will continue, said Bill Savino, American Honda’s motorcycle press manager. All four OEMs reported that they’re working to get operations back to normal as soon as possible. (See more about the latest updates in the upcoming issue of Powersports Business.)

In the wake of the devastation, the industry has stepped up. All of the Big Four have donated money and supplies to recovery efforts. Also, the Harley-Davidson Foundation has donated $250,000; industry fund Moto for Japan has raised more than $12,000; and The Motorcycle Industry Council (MIC), Motorcycle Safety Foundation (MSF) and Specialty Vehicle Institute of America (SVIA) boards are collectively donating $10,000 to the 2011 Japan Relief Fund.

Uncertainty still abounds, but industry leaders are meeting daily to assure production and supply get back on track. The horror of what occurred is still hard to grasp, but as an industry, many are supporting recovery efforts. Many are also working to bring our business back to normal.

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