Japanese Auto Production Down After Quake

Damage at parts manufacturer caused drop in domestic production as major automakers idled plants; overseas production offset some losses.

TOKYO (AP) — Most major Japanese automakers lost a portion of domestic production last month because earthquake damage at a parts manufacturer forced temporary closures of some assembly plants, the companies said Tuesday.
Toyota Motor Corp., Honda Motor Co., Nissan Motor Co. and Mazda Motor Corp. were forced to halt production at some factories temporarily because key parts supplier, Riken Corp. in northwestern Japan, was damaged by the 6.8 magnitude earthquake that struck July 16, killing 11 people.
But most Japanese automakers also increased overseas production.
Toyota, which was forced to shutter all its plants in Japan for two days, said production in Japan fell 9.5 percent to 379,863 vehicles in July from the same month a year ago.
But Toyota's global output rose 3.5 percent to 736,750 units, with overseas production jumping 22.2 percent to 356,887 vehicles.
The automaker has said it can make up last month's domestic production loss of 60,000 vehicles by the end of the year.
For the first six months of the year, Toyota and its group companies rolled out 4.71 million vehicles worldwide, bringing it closer to dethroning General Motors Corp. as the world's biggest automaker. The Detroit carmaker has been the world leader in auto production for 76 years, and has said its first-half production totaled 4.75 million vehicles.
By sales, Toyota already has the lead. It sold 4.72 million vehicles for the six-month period to June 30, compared to GM's 4.674 million vehicles.
Many analysts believe Toyota will surpass GM in global automobile production by year-end, as drivers look to its fuel-efficient models, including the Camry, the best-selling model in the U.S., and the Prius gas-electric hybrid.
Honda, Japan's second-biggest automaker, said domestic production dropped 11.1 percent to 97,986 vehicles in July.
But Honda's global production climbed 6.0 percent to 290,845 vehicles in July, thanks to a 17.6 percent jump in overseas production to 192,859 vehicles.
Nissan, 44 percent owned by Renault SA of France, said domestic output dropped 20.9 percent to 85,976 vehicles for the month. Nissan's global production fell 3.7 percent to 249,267 units, as overseas production climbed 8.8 percent to 163,291 units.
Mitsubishi Motors was the only major automaker to post an increase in domestic production in July. The automaker's output in Japan edged up 7.7 percent to 67,407 units last month, and overseas production rose 5.7 percent to 47,170 vehicles.
At Hiroshima-based Mazda, an affiliate of Ford Motor Co. of the U.S., domestic output fell 4.0 percent to 82,361 vehicles. Overseas production fell 23.3 percent.
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