The WTEC panelists believe that the Japanese foundry industry will be most influenced by the movement of automotive assembly offshore. Cost of real estate, labor, and energy will dictate that new assembly capacity be installed offshore, closer to the emerging vehicle markets. The Japanese supplier base will follow rather than export parts for the same reasons.
Recent announcements include a new midwest U.S. ductile foundry for Hitachi and Asama Giken. Toyota is expanding the Bodine operation in the St. Louis area to support engine builds at Georgetown, KY.
This panel's Japanese hosts indicate that they will transplant proven existing technology and generally use Japanese manufactured equipment. They will use less automation in the United States since labor costs do not warrant the added investment. They are quick to point out, however, that if automation contributes to improved process control and robustness, it will be employed.
Additional Japanese foundries are expected to relocate to the United States and to emerging automotive market locations. They will continue to be strong competitors in their new locations.