Quake Halts Japanese Automakers’ Production Lines (UPDATE)

Three of Honda’s plants remain closed for an extra day; Toyota and others unsure when factories would be back online.

TOKYO (AP) - Honda said Friday three of its plants would remain closed for an extra day and Toyota and other Japanese automakers said they were unsure when factories would be back online after a major quake ravaged a key parts supplier.
Severe damage to Riken Corp.'s factory in Kashiwazaki, in north-central Japan near the epicenter of Monday's magnitude 6.8 temblor, has caused Japan's top automakers to stop production at many factories because Riken is unable to deliver key engine and transmission parts.
Honda Motor Corp., which halted its lines for two days until Friday, said an auto assembly plant, motorcycle factory and light car engine line will stay closed Monday, according to company spokesman Sakae Uruma.
Toyota Motor Corp., which has halted production for the week at all domestic auto factories, said the company had yet to decide when it will restart production, said Kayo Doi, a company spokeswoman.
''We are still considering what we'll do as for Monday and after,'' she said.
Nissan Motor Co.'s operation has been halted at some of its plants, and the stoppage will continue through Tuesday. Company official Yuko Matsuda said Nissan will decide early next week as for operations for Wednesday and after.
Mitsubishi Motors Corp. and Mazda Motor Corp. said they planned to halt most operations at least until Monday.
Riken said Friday it hopes to restart production of some auto parts on Monday. Workers had finished replacing 80 percent of the damaged equipment but the plant was not yet receiving water and gas, according to a company official who spoke on condition of anonymity, citing protocol.
She said the company did not know when production would return to pre-quake levels.
To speed up the process, Toyota, Honda and other car companies have dispatched a total of 650 workers to help with the cleanup, Riken said.
Analysts have said the delay—if short enough—probably would not affect domestic or overseas deliveries for big players such as Toyota, which has enough inventory to cover a few days of lost output.
Also Friday, delays threatened to spread to other sectors as construction machinery company Kubota Corp., which also procures parts from Riken, said it was partially suspending production at four of its plants in Japan.
Earthquakes have previously hurt Japan's auto industry.
A 1995 quake that devastated the western city of Kobe forced a major break systems manufacturer to stop production.
The halt affected nine auto companies and caused total auto production for that year to fall by 40,000 vehicles, according to the Nikkei business daily.
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