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Honda extends quake shutdown into April

Back on: Hybrid production at Toyota's Tsutsumi plant has resumed.

Japanese parts shortages drag on, with most factories remaining in limbo

Honda logo25 Mar 2011

HONDA has extended the shutdown of its Japanese car assembly factories for at least another week, until April 4, as it and other motor companies wrestle with parts shortages and power black-outs in the wake of the March 11 earthquake and tsunami.

The shortages have almost guaranteed that the industry-wide disruption will continue into April, with some observers saying it will be at least mid-April before production normality can be restored.

Mazda, which resumed temporary production of vehicles this week using parts already on hand, has also surrendered to parts shortages and closed its Hofu plant again, while Subaru’s vehicle production suspension will remain in place until at least Monday.

While Toyota has warned that production at its United States plants might be affected by the same parts shortages that have halted motor vehicle assembly at all its Japanese factories, it has announced that it will at least resume making hybrid cars in Japan from Monday.

The resumption of hybrid vehicle production comes on the eve of the Australian launch of the Lexus CT200h luxury hybrid hatchback at the Australian F1 Grand Prix this weekend.

 center imageFrom top: Mazda production at Hofu, Honda R&D at Tochigi, Toyota's hybrid plant at Tsutsumi.

Lexus Australia spokesman Tyson Bowen told GoAuto that Lexus had stocked up on CT200h cars in readiness for the launch and consequently had adequate supplies anyway, but added that the resumption of production in Japan was good news, coming as the newest Lexus hits the Australian market.

However, Toyota production remains on hold at its other Japanese plants that make conventional, mass-selling cars such as the top-selling Corolla, Yaris and LandCruiser. Toyota Australia public relations manager Mike Breen has reassured potential customers that it has sufficient stock to maintain supply for weeks, and that Australia production of the Camry is continuing.

Honda, Japan’s second biggest car-maker, has revealed that it has started transferring research and development projects to other sites from its main Tochigi engineering and test centre, north of Tokyo, where buildings at the R&D centre were so badly damaged in the original quake that it will not be fully functional for months.

One worker was killed by a falling wall at the centre’s canteen, which remains off limits due to structural damage.

Production at Honda’s major car plants at Suzuka and Sayama will remain stalled until at least April 4, when a decision will be made on future production, but motorcycle and power equipment production is set to resume on Monday.

Honda Australia national public relations manager Mark Higgins told GoAuto that Australian dealers still had plentiful supplies of Japan-sourced products such as the Civic Hybrid, Accord Euro, Odyssey and Legend.

Much of the industry shutdown revolves around supply of electronic components from external suppliers in the earthquake-hit region north of Tokyo, with knock-on affects at plants in Europe, North America and elsewhere.

Air flow sensors, LCD screens used in sat-nav systems and microchips used to monitor engine operation are among the components that are drying up as quake-hit suppliers struggle to get back on their feet.

According to the Wall Street Journal, one supplier – Hitachi Automotive Systems – is the main supplier of air-flow sensors to at least three of the world’s biggest car-makers – Toyota, General Motors and PSA Peugeot-Citroen.

Such sensors are also made by Siemens and Bosch, but Hitachi is said to have a 60 per cent share of world supply.

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