tech news-Japan earthquake-Aftershocks in India as prices of appliances may rise-auto output to suffer

The aftershocks of last month’s massive earthquake and tsunami in Japan will rattle Indian consumers next month when prices of televisions and home appliances increase, and the wait to drive home popular Japanese cars possibly gets longer.
Top carmakers Maruti Suzuki, Toyota Kirloskar and Honda Siel have agreed that shortened supply of critical spares may hit their production in May.
Consumer electronics firms, including market leader LG, plan up to 8% increase in prices of flat panel televisions, refrigerators, washing machines and air-conditioners due to severe shortage of semiconductor supply, officials said.
“The scarcity of semiconductors may push up prices of television and home appliances going ahead unless new sites are explored,” LG Electronics India Managing Director Soon Kwon said.
Japan supplies two-thirds of world’s semiconductor silicon wafers.
The March 11 earthquake — with a magnitude of 9 on the Richter Scale — and the ensuing tsunami destroyed much of northeastern Japan, killing thousands and making many more homeless and grounding bridges and buildings, including several semiconductor and auto parts factories.
Continuing radiation leaks at the coastal Fukushima nuclear power plant have impacted rebuilding efforts in the area, which would cost $309 billion, according to a Japanese government estimate.
Spares in short supply
When the tsunami hit Japan, Japanese carmakers in India had one month’s stock of auto parts and a substantial quantity was in transit in the high seas. But they will exhaust their inventories of spares in a week to fortnight.
“We may feel the impact in May when fresh supplies may be curtailed,” said S Maitra, executive director (supply chain) at Maruti Suzuki, which sells every second car in India and imports a bulk of its critical components from Japan.
While Suzuki’s operations are based in Hamamatsu in southern Japan, which was not affected by the tsunami, its supplier network has been drastically hit in the northern part, he said.
World’s largest carmaker Toyota’s Indian subsidiary too expects trouble keeping up with its production schedule in May.
“We had increased supplies owing to domestic expansion, which will take care of this month. But as the demand in domestic market picks up, we may face hand-to-mouth situation in components from May onwards,” Toyota Kirloskar Deputy Managing Director (Marketing) Sandeep Singh said.
Toyota has comfortable spare supplies till next week, but plans to cut production in May to streamline future manufacturing operations.
The engine supply for its new sedan Etios, which has received tremendous response from Indian consumers, may also get affected because it comes from Japan.
Any slowdown in production may prove costly because India is one of the fastest-growing car markets and there is huge competition with giants such as Volkswagen and General Motors trying hard to increase their share in the market.
The Japanese crisis has already made both Toyota and Honda postpone the launches of their much-hyped new cars — Toyota Liva and Honda Brio — till normalcy is restored at their parent factories.
Japanese carmakers in India import auto parts in huge quantities from South-East Asia and Japan, especially electronic and telematic parts that are critical for making engines and gears.
All major auto centres hit
We are trying to figure out the possible shortened supplies of such critical spares that may impact our production cycle in May,” Honda VP (Marketing) Jnaneshwar Sen said.
The production crisis in Japan, world’s third-largest automotive market, has hit all major centres including the US and Europe as tighter inventories have forced companies to curtail shifts and Indian subsidiaries are no exception.
Flat TVs to cost more
In the consumer electronics industry, the impact is not just on Japanese firms. Several companies get semiconductors and critical components of flat panel TVs from Japan. And now there is a severe supply shortage.
Electronics companies in India plan to increase prices of flat panel televisions like LCD, plasma and LED by 8% in May due to a shortage of supply of panels and semiconductors. Prices of refrigerators, washing machines and air conditioners may also rise 5-7%.
“There is a huge supply shortage of flat panels, especially for TV sets of 32 inches and above. Panel prices have shot up by 7-8% and can go up further because there is little clarity on fresh production,” Akai India Director Pranay Dhabhai said.
As a result, new models of flat panel televisions may become 7-8% costlier, he added.
Videocon Vice-President (Sales) CM Singh said the company plans to hold on to prices till the Indian Premier League ends to boost TV sales. “But after that we have no option but to increase prices across products by 4-5%,” he said. “Semiconductor and panel supplies have practically dried up from Japan.” A person close to Hitachi said there has been no delay in shipments of flat panels to India so far, but he warned of tight supplies if the situation worsens further. A Hitachi spokesperson, however, declined to comment.
Most LCD component-making factories in Japan were located in the worst-affected areas such as Shibukawa, Miyagi and areas adjacent to the Fukushima nuclear power plant. Japanese electronic products maker Sharp Corp recently announced a reduction in production output of LCD panels due to delay in component procurement. Others such as Toshiba and Hitachi had earlier announced closure of a few LCD production lines due to damages in Japan.
Mirc Electronics, which owns the Onida brand and sources LCD panels from Sharp, is shifting sourcing to Taiwan and Korea. “The pressure on Taiwan and Korea will put pressure on the entire ecosystem for the next few months,” Mirc Electronics CMD Gulu Mirchandani said.
Tech consultancy Gartner has said supplies of silicon wafers for the semiconductor industry is hit largely, including at the leading supplier Shin-Etsu Handotai. Japan manufactures 65% of the world’s semiconductor silicon wafers. The country also produces roughly 30% of the world’s flash memory, used in cameras and dynamic random-access memory.
Nikon India MD Hiroshi Takashina said supplies of some digital SLR camera models and lenses manufactured at the Miyagi plan will be delayed although the plant, which was damaged by the quake, has partially commenced operations.
The other big camera maker, Canon, said its Indian revenues could be impacted by 5% unless the situation improves in the next 30 days. Both Canon and Nikon indicated there could be delay in product shipments to India.
Temblor Trauma
Devastation in Japan comes to haunt Indian companies
– Tsunami would lead to a possible 13% reduction in auto production globally in 2011
– Disruption in imports of fully and semi-built cars
– Scarce raw material, especially steel and components
– Delays in launch of new models
– Delays in investment by Japanese players in India
Consumer Durables
– Shortage of semiconductors used in TVs & other appliances
– Companies look for vendors within non-affected areas of Japan and in Korea and Taiwan
– Most LCD component-making factories in affected areas such as Shibukawa, Miyagi
– Imports of high-end cameras may get hampered
– Companies such as Sony and Sharp are yet to resume production at Japan factories