WASHINGTON (AP) -- Japanese auto companies on Wednesday extended shutdowns of car-assembly plants affected by the country's devastating earthquake and tsunami, but in a sign of progress, some parts factories in Japan plan to resume production later this week.
Toyota Motor Corp., the world's biggest automaker, said it will extend production halts at its car plants through March 22, affecting about 95,000 vehicles. The company halted production beginning March 14.
But Toyota will resume production on Thursday at factories that make replacement parts for vehicles already on the road. And it will restart plants on March 21 that make parts for overseas factories.
Japan is the world's second-largest producer of automobiles after China, and is a top trade partner with the United States, which imported 1.2 million vehicles from Japan in 2009. The earthquake, tsunami and radiation from damaged nuclear power plants have raised concerns of falling supplies of high-mileage cars made only in Japan. Those models include the Honda Fit and Toyota Yaris and hybrids such as the Toyota Prius.
Among other affected plants:
-- Nissan Motor Co. said it was resuming production at two factories on Thursday and Friday for as long as its inventory of parts lasts. Three other Nissan plants are halting production until Sunday. Nissan has not disclosed the number of vehicles affected by the production cuts.
-- Honda Motor Co. suspended production at six Japanese plants through the end of the week, along with a research and development center and an engineering office. The production cuts will affect 16,600 vehicles and 2,000 motorcycles.
Honda's auto plants will remain closed because of the shortage of parts from northeastern Japan, where the earthquake and tsunami were centered. The company's plans for the factories may become clearer over the weekend.
--Mazda and Subaru plants will remain closed through March 20. Mitsubishi is running three plants on Wednesday and Thursday, using inventory parts.
Following the earthquake and tsunami, Japanese auto companies have been assessing the damage to their plants as well as to the ports and roads key to their distribution channels.