SEATTLE –North America Inc.’s Infiniti brand expects only “short-term delays” in filling orders as a result of a 6.8-magnitude earthquake that struck Japan last week.
With most manufacturers now reporting resumed production, the lost output tally stands at more than 125,000 vehicles industry-wide, according to Reuters.
Japanese auto makers were forced to suspend operations because of quake damage at supplier Riken Corp., which is the country’s top supplier of piston rings. Riken says it has returned to near-normal production rates and expects to make up the output lost during the July 17-20 shutdown “as soon as possible.”
The loss tally includes 55,000 vehicles atMotor Corp., 14,400 cars at Motor Co. Ltd., 18,000 cars at Suzuki Motor Corp., 10,000 vehicles at Mitsubishi Motors Corp., 10,000 at Daihatsu Motor Co. Ltd., 4,500 at Mazda Motor Corp. and 1,500 at Heavy Industries Ltd., plus about 1,000 commercial vehicles.
Infiniti Vice President and General Manager Mark Igo saysplants in Japan producing Infiniti models were shuttered for three-and-a-half days following the quake, not enough time to cause significant vehicle shortages.
“They can make that (lost volume) up through overtime,” Igo says during a media preview of the new G37 coupe here.
With the exception of the QX56 large SUV, produced at Nissan’s Canton, MS, plant, all Infinitis sold in the U.S. are built in Japan. The G and M model ranges are built at Nissan’s Tochigi plant and the FX is assembled by affiliate Nissan Shatai Co. Ltd. in Kanagawa.
Nissan resumed production at its six Japanese plants July 24, after having lost an estimated 12,000 units due to the shutdowns.
The blip in production likely won’t have any effect on the launch of Infiniti’s newest model, the G37 coupe, Igo predicts. The G37 goes on sale in the U.S. Aug. 21. Production began June 18, Randy Fior, regional product manager-product planning, tells Ward's. Infiniti says it will have a 20-day supply at launch.
Output of the ’08 G35 sedan, which was new last fall as an ’07 model, gets under way next month in Japan, Fior says.
Infiniti launched the G sedan last year with Nissan’s venerable 3.5L V-6 VQ engine, which has made Ward's 10 Best Engines list every year since its inception. The new 3.7L version of the VQ powers the G coupe.
Igo says a combination of things prevented Infiniti from launching the coupe with the new VQ ahead of the sedan but mainly “just the timing of trying to have the engine ready,” he says.
“The idea was (Nissan engineers) already (had) put significant work in on the 3.5L, and that was an engine they felt worked very well for other (vehicles),” Igo says. “But they wanted (the 3.7L) to be perfect and put it on the coupe.”
He adds it was decided early in the development process that the coupe, not the sedan, would get the 3.7L VQ first. However there’s a possibility the new VQ will migrate over to the G sedan.
“The timing is to be decided,” Igo says. “I think there’s some other things they wanted to work through, but it’s logical at some point. Because of the efficiencies we’re able to pump out of the engine, we’ll have broader usage.”
Those efficiencies include a 10% improvement in overall fuel economy for the 5-speed automatic-equipped G37 vs. the outgoing G35 coupe with an automatic transmission.
Igo confirms the next-generation Infiniti FX midsize cross/utility vehicle will get the 3.7L VQ at some point, but it will likely will launch with the 3.5L.
“The engine is tuned for performance, so it was prepared more for a sports car,” Igo says of the 3.7L, which makes 330 hp in the G37. “It will have to be tuned for performance for an FX and other models down the road.”
A new FX is due early next year as an ’09 model, he says.
Nissan also has trademarked the name M37, suggesting the mid-luxury sedan will receive the mill in the future, as well.