Japanese Automakers Assessing Damage from Massive Earthquake and Tsunami

The massive 8.9 magnitude earthquake and tsunami that struck Japan at 2:46 p.m. local time has brought a halt to virtually all auto production in the country. Honda Motor Company, Nissan Motor Company and Toyota Motor Corporation have all ceased production as they assess the damage caused by the temblor.

Exports of the Toyota Yaris and Scion XB and XD, Honda Fit, Accord and CR-V have been disrupted as has production of Acura and Infinity models.

Toyota was forced to evacuate production workers from several production plants. The company has two parts plants and two affiliated assemblers, Central Motors Company and Kanto Auto Works Ltd., located in northern Japan which bore the brunt of the initial destruction from the tsunami.

Honda Motor Company reported at least one fatality at its research and development facility, and two of Nissan’s plants were damaged by fire resulting from the quake.

Toyota has a large manufacturing presence in the northern part of the country. In January the automaker opened its Central Motors affiliate near Sendai. The plant is responsible for the manufacture of Yaris small cars for the U.S. market and has a capacity to produce 120,000 units annually.

The Kanto Auto Works plant makes the Scion xB and xD models as well as the Yaris sedan.

Toyota spokesman Mike Michels said it is not yet clear if Scions bound for the U.S. were impacted by the disaster.

When asked for an estimate of when Toyota’s northern manufacturing plants might reopen, Corbett said, “As for production from here out, we will make a decision after we get a handle on the situation.”

He went on to say that production at facilities near the company’s headquarters in Toyota City have already resumed after a brief shutdown. He said damage is still being assessed, but reported that there were no injuries at these locations.

Two of the company’s largest suppliers, Denso Corporation and Toyota Boshoku Corporation, reported damage.

Honda Motor Company spokesman Keitaro Yamamoto said two of its assembly plants were idled by the quake. The Suzuka production plant, located in the central part of the country, has reportedly resumed operations. The Sayama plant, which is located north of Tokoyo, remains closed. The Sayama plant produces several models for export to the U.S., including the Honda Accord and Fit as well as the Acura RL and Acura TSX.

Nissan Motor Company has idled production at a number of plants throughout the eastern part of the country. There were reports of fires at two of the company’s assembly plants but Nissan said the fires were quickly brought under control.  The company has said that it will suspend production over the weekend as it assesses the damage.

Fuji Heavy Industries, which makes Subaru vehicles, was forced to suspend production as was truck maker Volvo AB. Volvo said there was minimal damage to its UD Truck plant located in the southeastern part of the country. The company reported extensive damage to at least one of its dealerships in Sendai, near the quake’s epicenter.

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