Auto parts stores nationwide are running out of Electric Toll Collection devices thanks to government plans to subsidize the purchases and discount expressway tolls.
Acting like a transponder, the wireless ETC allows drivers to pay tolls without stopping.
To stimulate consumption, the government plans to charge a flat rate of ¥1,000 for most toll gates on weekends to ETC-equipped cars regardless of distance traveled. Expressway tolls in the Tokyo and Hanshin areas will be discounted differently.
Auto mechanics have been thriving on the “special demands” created by ETC-related products but now find themselves overwhelmed. Some auto parts shops have even run out of application forms for the subsidies and stopped accepting orders.
Major auto parts shop Yellow Hat Ltd. saw ETC sales spike 30 times higher than normal on March 6, when the government announced it would offer a ¥5,250 subsidy for everyone who buys an ETC for a four-wheel vehicle.
“It’s good that consumer appetite for the device has increased, but we are in trouble because we cannot obtain the products,” said Masanori Kimura, 34-year-old worker at Super Autobacs Hachioji in western Tokyo.
ETC makers are operating at full capacity, although other automotive companies are suffering badly from the steep fall in vehicle sales and production worldwide.
Automotive Systems Co., a Panasonic group unit based in Yokohama, hiked monthly output of ETCs for cars to 150,000 units from 100,000 recently.
“We are also running a factory in Thailand 24 hours a day and are shipping by air freight instead of by ship. But we still can’t meet demand. We can’t even get enough parts,” a company spokesman said.
The state-linked corporation subsidizing the ETC purchase was to stop taking applications at month’s end, but said Thursday it will accept applications in April and later.
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