Japan Automakers Extend Shutdowns amid Parts Shortages as Impact Widens

by Daniel Haim

Japan’s seven big automakers are extending nationwide production shutdowns amid growing concern about supply chain interruptions, power shortages and export difficulties following the massive earthquake and tsunami that hammered northern Japan, killing thousands.

Toyota Motor Corp., one of the few automakers with a major manufacturing presence in the quake zone, suspended all manufacturing – at both assembly and parts plants – on Monday and extended the shutdown through at least Wednesday as an added precaution.

The company will lose output of roughly 40,000 vehicles over the three-day period, spokesman Dion Corbett said.

Carmakers are halting production – even at plants not affected by Friday’s 8.9-magnitude monster quake – partly to give workers time to regroup with families. Thousands of people in northern Japan are still unaccounted for, as authorities predict a death toll exceeding 10,000.

But the country’s supply chain has also been slammed – with automakers still unable to make contact with some parts makers in the quake zone three days after Friday’s disaster. There is also concern about export shipments being interrupted by tsunami damage to the nation’s ports.

U.S. production may even be hit if plants there can’t get parts normally imported from Japan.