NAGOYA (Kyodo) Toyota Motor Corp. is considering reopening more plants for car assembly on April 18 or later as parts supply, which has been largely held back since the March 11 disaster, is expected to improve, sources said Wednesday.

After suspending all of its domestic plants on March 14, Toyota resumed manufacturing three models, including the Prius, at two plants on March 28.

The automaker is still undecided on the size of its planned output increase. Currently, 15 plants have been idled.

Even if it could reopen more plants, operation capacity will remain low as it still faces difficulty in securing the prequake amount of components.

While Toyota will manufacture a limited number of models, it may be forced to suspend the production again if it is unable to procure sufficient parts.

Also behind the move to seek expanded production is a concern that a prolonged stoppage could hurt the business of parts suppliers and dealerships that did not suffer quake damage.

The disruption to parts shipments is expected to force Toyota to suspend production at all 14 of its North American factories later this month.

Rating cut in offing

Kyodo News

Moody’s Japan K.K. said Wednesday it will review Toyota Motor Corp.’s rating and possibly downgrade it, as the major automaker’s financial and operational performances will worsen following the March 11 earthquake and tsunami.

While Toyota’s current rating is Aa2, the third-highest out of a total of 21 notches, the Japanese unit of the U.S. debt rating agency said “normal production cannot be expected for many months” due to supply chain disruptions.

Moody’s Japan added, however, the “likelihood of a multiple-notch downgrade is very limited” as Toyota has a strong business franchise and excellent balance sheet.

Toyota has been forced to close some of its plants for car assembly as its parts supply has been largely held back due to the disaster. Moody’s Japan said parts supply could be disrupted further given the potential power shortage this summer.

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