Ford Designs Innovative Railcar to Ship All-New Transit Van

Inclement Weather, Rail Car Shortage Hamper Auto Shipments

March 4, 2015

It seems like there is always something that is hurting auto operations. Last month, it was the West Coast ports labor dispute, which forced Honda Motor Co. to trim production at some of its North American plants. This time, it is the severe winter weather that is making things difficult for automakers. Volkswagen in particular is affected by the snow and cold temperatures, which cause delays of their East Coast shipments.

The harsh weather seems harshest to VW, since other European automakers are not as affected in terms of shipments. Mark Boucher, the automaker’s senior manager of port operations and metrics, told Automotive News that the weather has slowed down operations at VW’s Davisville, Rhode Island port since the start of the year. He noted that operation disruptions are kept at a minimum thanks to the efforts of their port processor, which do a good job of offsetting the effects of the delays.

Despite the problems at the Davisville port, VW has not yet gone off-site or moved vehicles to other ports, according to Boucher. He also clarified that the weather only affected operations at the aforementioned port and not the automaker’s Chattanooga plant.

Inclement weather is hurting not only the shipments of VW but also the deliveries of Toyota Motor Corp. and Ford Motor Co. However, the weather itself is not main problem of Toyota and Ford; rather, it is the lack of rail cars.

Automakers transport vehicles from their production plants to the dealerships with the help of railroad companies. When there are not enough rail cars for shipment, automakers are unable to unload the vehicles from factory yards. When factory yards are kept stocked and there is no available space left for units about to leave the assembly line, production will be constricted.

Rail car shortage is a bigger problem for automakers these days because of the strong demand for SUVs and pickup trucks. The vehicle manufacturers cannot deliver the in-demand models fast enough because railroad companies are unable to bring the vehicles where they need to go.

Fortunately, Toyota and Ford have come up with ways to ensure production is not affected by rail car shortage. These include storing vehicles in whatever available space they have. Last year, when Toyota’s factory yards were full, the company leased off-site parking spaces for storage. They also parked vehicles on employee lots and test tracks. Ford did the same thing: the company reportedly parked some F-150 units at its Dearborn test track.

Toyota is now paving more land around some of its factories to have more storage capacity.

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