Toyota, Honda assembly lines face long stretch in idle

Kyodo News

Toyota Motor Corp. and Honda Motor Co. have said they plan to defer resumption of car assembly amid ongoing difficulties in parts supply following the tsunami devastation in the Tohoku region triggered by the March 11 mega-earthquake.

Vehicle output could be in for a lengthy suspension, as the two major automakers currently have no prospects of resuming production.

Toyota, the world’s biggest carmaker, earlier said it would suspend car assembly until Tuesday but then decided to delay resumption until Saturday. It will not operate plants to assemble vehicles Sunday.

The automaker will halt its car assembly for 11 operating days, surpassing the 3 1/2-day suspension that followed a powerful earthquake in Niigata Prefecture in July 2007.

As the output suspension period reaches a record for Toyota, it won’t be able to produce about 140,000 units.

Toyota restarted making parts last Thursday but said it hasn’t decided when it will resume finished car output at plants of its Daihatsu Motor Co. and Hino Motors Ltd. units.

Honda said it had earlier decided to suspend operations at its three car assembly plants in Saitama, Mie and Kumamoto prefectures until Wednesday but is now planning to continue the shutdown until Sunday.

Regarding production next Monday and later, the automaker said it will make a decision by monitoring developments in restructuring efforts and parts supply.

Although automakers have increased exports of vehicles mainly to China and Asia, their presence could diminish in overseas markets due to deteriorating availability.

The nation’s automakers are being forced to suspend or cut down their plant operations as parts makers in the Tohoku and other regions hit by the quake are facing difficulties in procuring parts.

There are around 20,000 to 30,000 parts needed for vehicle production and automakers can’t produce cars if even one is missing.

Among other manufacturers, Sony Corp. said it will temporarily suspend output of products at five of its domestic factories through March 31 due to a shortage of materials and parts.

The plants in Shizuoka, Aichi, Gifu and Oita prefectures have not been damaged, but it may consider transferring production outside Japan for the time being if the parts shortages continue.

Meanwhile, some automakers have decided to resume car assembly.

Nissan Motor Co. said it started to produce parts at its domestic plants in such areas as Yokosuka, Kanagawa Prefecture, while planning to resume vehicle output Thursday.

UD Trucks Corp. plans to resume vehicle assembly at its plant in Saitama Prefecture on Monday as it expects to procure new parts supply following the quake.

Suzuki Motor Corp., Mazda Motor Corp., Mitsubishi Motors Corp. and Daihatsu Motor Co. are assembling cars using stock components, making it difficult for makers to restore their usual pace of production.

Major electronics company Hitachi Ltd. has resumed some operations at a subsidiary in the quake-hit city of Hitachi, Ibaraki Prefecture, while Fujitsu Ltd. planned to restart manufacturing Wednesday at factories in the Tohoku region.

Computer chip maker Renesas Electronics Corp. has resumed some operations at its units in Aomori and Yamagata prefectures.

Asahi Breweries Ltd. has restarted operations at a factory in Moriya, Ibaraki Prefecture, which produces its mainstay beer product for shipments to the Tokyo metropolitan and other areas.

But the company is unlikely to resume operations at its damaged plant in Fukushima Prefecture anytime soon, company officials said.