TOKYO - Japan's top three automakers said Wednesday that a US port strike has hit their North American production with some resorting to airlifts to keep plants running at full steam.
Dock workers on the US West Coast are reportedly on a go-slow and have not been supplying full crews for months in a bid to gain bargaining leverage in labor negotiations -- a situation that led to a crippling French fry shortage at Japanese fast-food outlets last year.
Now, Japan's major automakers say that the prolonged labor dispute is hitting their supply chain as they race to ship parts to North American factories.
"We have tried to procure parts by alternate means such as by air," Honda spokeswoman Yuka Abe told AFP.
The continuing strike action is slowing down cargo shipments and the company has not been able to supply enough parts in North America." - Yuka Abe, Honda
"But the continuing strike action is slowing down cargo shipments and the company has not been able to supply enough parts in North America."
Honda said it was trimming output at four plants in the United States and Canada by a total of 20,000 units this week -- mainly of the popular Accord and Civic -- and added that a decision would soon be made on further production cuts.
Last year, Japan's number-three automaker produced about 1.6 million vehicles in North America.
Rival Toyota, the world's biggest automaker, said it was also resorting to airlifts and changing shifts to keep its factories humming, but added that the labour disputes were not having a "significant impact" on operations so far.
"Due to delays in the processing of overseas parts at the West Coast ports, we have adjusted overtime at some plants in North America as needed," Toyota spokesman Nicholas Maxfield said in an email.
"In an effort to minimize production disruptions we are expediting shipments by air," he added.
Nissan, meanwhile, said there had been "some impact" on its North American operations.
"As a result, Nissan started limited use of air freight to deliver auto parts from some countries in Asia to the US," a Tokyo-based company spokesman said.
He added that Nissan sources many of its parts from North American-based parts makers.
Late last year, Japanese fast food giants also turned to airlifts to deal with a French fry shortage linked to the labour disputes.
McDonald's in December said the situation had forced it to ration French fries at its Japanese outlets.
Copyright Agence France-Presse, 2015