Japan
Automobile
Manufacturers
Association, Inc.

Issue No. 3, 2011

Bringing aid to Tohoku

by Peter Nunn

Japanís motor industry was quick to respond when a devastating earthquake and tsunami inflicted huge damage on northeastern Japan on the afternoon of Friday, March 11. This disaster, which also spurred the major, ongoing nuclear crisis in Fukushima Prefecture, was felt not just in Japan but all the way around the world, as truly shocking scenes of mayhem made their way onto global TV. It was a catastrophe that saw thousands lose their homes and loved ones, and several months on, the victims of the Great East Japan Earthquake and the whole recovery operation are still very much in our thoughts.

Within days, leading lights, JAMA member companies had pledged millions of yen in support and a vast network of vehicles and supplies were donated and soon on their way to the stricken Tohoku area. Now, with power supplies under pressure, offices, shops and factories across Japan are also helping out. An electricity- saving campaign (setsuden) is under way and by turning off lights, stopping escalators and cutting back on air conditioning, with automakers also shifting to weekend working, the idea is to avoid power cuts throughout the summer and in turn secure stable power supplies through to Tohoku as it rebuilds.

As the scale of the disaster became clear, so the way JAMA members rallied around to provide aid was both swift and decisive. As early as March 23, cash donations had already reached •1.4 billion (some Ä12.18 million). Members also donated a huge fleet of cars, trucks, tankers, motorcycles, forklifts and wheel loaders to get the area moving again, as well as crushers, power generators, floodlights and pumps to help with the search-and-rescue and clean-up operations.

Emergency accommodation was made available and relief supplies including food, bottled water, sanitary goods and blankets were soon also making the journey northwards en masse. Even in the space of three months, remarkable progress was made. In some areas, where wrecked houses and cars -even ships- previously blocked the roads, the debris was already completely cleared. That truly was astounding.

Electric vehicles have come into play but in a way probably few imagined. Mitsubishi is reputedly planning a new version of the i-MiEV, with a battery that can be used to power electric appliances, like a rice cooker or water heater. When Mitsubishi supplied i-MiEVs as relief vehicles in Tohoku, it received a number of requests for models with just such a feature, according to reports. Nissan is also reportedly planning EVs with a power supply capability, which could appear on the market as early as 2012. Furthermore, the Toyota Estima Hybridís electricity auxiliary system, which is already available in the market, received high commendation from Tohoku victims. Toyota will now extend this system to other models in Japan and so create a new line of vehicles that can be more useful in emergency situations.

Nobody in Japan will ever forget the shock and terror of March 11, 2011.  But step by step, Japan is already on the mend and impressing the world with its powers of recovery.