Toyota, Honda extend shutdowns as rivals resume output after quake

Toyota, Honda extend shutdowns as rivals resume output after quake
Hans Greimel
Automotive News | March 22, 2011 – 7:17 am EST

TOKYO — Toyota Motor Corp. and Honda Motor Co. extended factory shutdowns through this weekend, while smaller Japanese automakers resumed limited production following the country’s March 11 earthquake and tsunami.

Toyota and Honda, which together account for the bulk of the closed assembly plants, said today that parts shortages would keep their factories closed longer than previously forecast.

Toyota, which had originally suspended production through today, said it would shutter its 18 domestic assembly plants, including those run by affiliates, through March 26.

Likewise, Honda — which has an assembly plant and r&d center in the disaster area — said it would suspend production through March 27. It had earlier said operations would be shuttered through Wednesday.

The extended shutdowns will continue to stifle the output of some of those companies’ main exports to the United States, including the Toyota Corolla, Prius, and RAV4 as well as the Honda Fit and CR-V. Affected vehicles also include the Nissan Rogue, Subaru Forester and Infiniti, Acura and Lexus models.

Other companies showed fitful signs of coming back to life, following across-the-board shutdowns in the wake of the killer 9.0-magnitude earthquake that struck Japan on 11 days ago.

Nissan Motor Co., which still has five plants closed by the quake, said it is aiming for a March 24 restart of all of them. This would include the Tochigi assembly plant in the quake zone, which makes Infiniti products as well as the 350Z and GT-R sports cars.

Other carmakers resumed temporary production — as long as part supplies last.

Mitsubishi had its three assembly plants in operation today. It was using parts that had already been made before the earthquake but couldn’t be delivered sooner because of bad roads.

The company still has five or six suppliers in the quake zone that aren’t operating.

As a result, Mitsubishi is suspending production indefinitely from Wednesday.

Mazda was also back online today — but only temporarily. It resumed production of replacement parts and parts for overseas factories at its two assembly plants. It also resumed production of vehicles that could be completed with parts already in stock.

Mazda did not say what models it would build or how long the stock of parts would hold out. It was too early to say when full production would resume, Mazda said.

Suzuki, which only produces a trickle of cars for the United States, also resumed auto production today, though with a half-shift of downtime. It plans the same on Wednesday. Operation from Thursday is still up in the air, however.

Like Mazda, Suzuki was moving to complete vehicles already in-process with existing inventory of parts and component. Says Suzuki spokesman Hideki Taguchi: “That means it is not the ‘resumption of production’ in the real sense of the term.”

Meanwhile, Subaru parent company Fuji Heavy Industries Ltd. has suspended vehicle assembly until at least Thursday. It plans to resume parts production for overseas factories on Wednesday and spare parts production on Thursday.

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