Toyota Motor Corp President, Akio Toyoda // Image by the Japan Times

On Monday, Toyota announced that all Japanese operations would be suspended on Tuesday following a suspected cyberattack on a key supplier of electronic parts and plastics. What seems like largely a preventative measure, the closure will mean that 13,000 vehicle builds will go unrealized for the day.

A statement released by Toyota read, “Due to a system failure at a domestic supplier (KOJIMA INDUSTRIES CORPORATION), we have decided to suspend the operation of 28 lines at 14 plants in Japan on Tuesday, March 1st (both 1st and 2nd shifts). We apologize to our relevant suppliers and customers for any inconvenience this may cause. We will also continue to work with our suppliers in strengthening the supply chain and make every effort to deliver vehicles to our customers as soon as possible.”

The parts supplier, Kojima Industries Corp., reported that a system malfunction had occurred, and they were unable to monitor production or keep in communication with Toyota. The problem did not affect actual production in their factories and all physical systems are still operational, leading the company to believe it was a hack. 

A spokesman for Kojima, Tomohiro Takayama, said in a statement to AP News, “This has never happened before. We are not sure yet if it is a cyberattack, but we suspect it might be one.”

Another related vehicle assembly company, Hino Motors, was similarly affected at two of their plants in Japan, and Daihatsu Motor Co. also had to shut down production for the same reason. 

Toyota models manufactured in Japan include the Prius hybrid models, 4Runner SUV, the luxury Land Cruiser, and the FCV Mirai. 

Potentially related to Russia-Ukraine conflict

The attack comes just one day after Japan put the nation’s support behind Western allies who are sanctioning Russia over the attempted invasion into Ukraine. Sanctions on the Russian central bank were announced on Sunday, severely limiting Putin’s access to billions of dollars in reserves. The only major nation that hasn’t frozen Russian assets yet is China where Russia stockpiles around 13% of its financial reserves worth around $77 billion.

Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida said about the disruption at Toyota, “It is difficult to say whether this has anything to do with Russia before making thorough checks.”

Just two days prior to the system failure, a Japanese-owned cargo ship flying under the Panamanian flag off the coast of Ukraine was hit by a missile. The vessel was attempting to clear the Odessa region after mistakenly entering the zone, unaware of the threat. Only one injury was reported, and the vessel is still operational and is heading to port. Such attacks on civilians tend to trigger strong reactions against the aggressors.

Disrupted production for Toyota likely short term

The shutdown at Japan’s car manufacturing facilities is expected to only last the day as the error is diagnosed and fixes are implemented. A single day’s lost production can often be made up in the following weeks. However, Toyota is still recovering from semiconductor chip shortages like all other carmakers worldwide. As well, the Canada-US border crossing blockade affected some of their production in North America, stacking up the obstacles.

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