Production Still Down as Japanese Automakers Struggle to Recover

According to one industry official, vehicle sales in the eastern part of Japan may have plummeted as much as 40% in the wake of the March 11 earthquake and tsunami.

On Friday, Japan Automobile Manufacturers Association chairman and Nissan COO Toshiyuki Shiga told reporters that auto sales in the western region of the country have also fallen by up to 20 percent.  The dire estimates, he said, are his own personal opinion and not necessarily those of JAMA.

The massive 9.0-magniture earthquake and tsunami forced a number of Japanese automakers to suspend production. Honda Motor Company, Nissan Motor Company and Toyota Motor Corporation were all forced to halt production because of disruptions to the country’s transportation infrastructure and damage to parts suppliers. Shiga said parts suppliers with offshore production plants will likely increase output at those facilities while the recovery continues at home.

Shiga said that as many as 500 component suppliers have operations in the areas most affected by the quake.  He also said that progress has been made in the recovery efforts at those affected facilities. “Even with the supply shortages and risk of power outages, reconstruction is proceeding at a faster pace than we expected at the beginning,” he said.

On Thursday, HIS Automotive estimated that global automobile production could fall by as much as 30 percent due to component shortages.

IHS vice president Michal Robinet said global production could fall by as much as 100,000 vehicles per day if the parts factories affected by the quake don’t return to operation within the next six weeks. According to Robinet, the auto industry typically produces between 280,000 and 300,000 vehicles per day.

He said Toyota may be especially hard hit. Shortages of electronic components, rubber and plastics could result in a loss of production of 140,000 as the world’s largest automaker has been forced to close all of its 18 assembly plants in Japan.

According to Nissan CEO Carlos Ghosn, six of its Japan factories resumed production on March 21. The company is monitoring the situation at its other domestic factories. Ghosn said production at Nissan’s engine plant in Iwaki, Fukushima prefecture may not resume until mid-April.

Honda Motor Company has announced that it has extended the closures of two of its assembly plants in Japan until April 3. The company said production at its North American plants has not been affected.

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