Quake hobbles Japan's auto output

Automotive News reports on the effects of the Japanese earthquake and tsunami on automotive exports.

Automotive News
2 min read
Automotive News

TOKYO--The earthquake that hammered Japan on Friday stopped production at several assembly plants that export vehicles to the United States.

The shutdowns could affect exports of such cars as the Toyota Yaris and Scion xB and Scion xD, as well as the Honda Fit, Accord sedan, and CR-V crossover. The quake also disrupted production of Acura and Infiniti models.

Japan's strongest quake in at least a century struck off the coast of Sendai, 80 miles north of Tokyo.

Toyota evacuated workers from several factories in the quake zone. Toyota has two parts plants in northern Japan and has two affiliates, Kanto Auto Works Ltd. and Central Motors Co., that assemble small cars in the region.

The status of those plants was being evaluated over the weekend, a Toyota spokesman said.

Earthquake map
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At least one person died at Honda's R&D facility, and there were fires at two Nissan plants.

Toyota is one of the few Japanese automakers with a large manufacturing presence in northern Japan, a region it wants to make a center for small-car production. In January, its Central Motors subsidiary opened an assembly plant an hour's drive from Sendai. That plant, with a capacity of 120,000 vehicles, makes the Yaris for export to the United States.

Toyota's Kanto Auto Works has another assembly plant in the neighboring prefecture of Iwate. That plant also makes small cars, including the Yaris sedan and the Scion xB and Scion xD, for export. The Toyota parent company has two parts plants in the region as well.

Toyota also confirmed plant damage at its suppliers Toyota Boshoku Corp. and Denso Corp., two of Toyota's biggest parts makers.

Honda shut down two assembly plants immediately after the quake, spokesman Keitaro Yamamoto said. Honda's Suzuka plant in central Japan soon resumed production. But the company's Sayama plant, north of Tokyo and closer to the epicenter, remained closed as of late Friday evening. The Sayama plant makes several U.S.-bound models.

It sends the Fit, Accord, and CR-V to the United States, as well as the Acura RL and Acura TSX, Yamamoto said.

At Honda's R&D center in Tochigi prefecture, one person died and 30 were injured when the quake toppled a cafeteria wall. No other injuries were reported.

Nissan Motor Co. also suspended factory work throughout eastern Japan. Small fires broke out at two assembly plants, including the factory producing the Infiniti M sedan and GT-R sports car. They were quickly extinguished, the company said.

The company also evacuated employees from its technology center south of Tokyo after the power was cut off there.

(Source: Automotive News)