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Car production halted by earthquake devastation

The UK’s automotive market is expected to suffer some impact from the devastating earthquake in Japan.

Most of the vehicle manufacturing plants operated in Japan have come to a halt temporarily due to shortages of components or power supply issues.

Automotive analysts warn that even if the Japanese automakers can resume domestic operations, exports are expected to take some time, considering the damage caused by the earthquake and tsunami to the port and road infrastructure.

Here, AM details the actions being taken by Japanese carmakers as we went to press on Monday, March 21:


Honda has suspended production at its Japanese plants until March 23, after which it would review the suspension based on the status of the recovery of parts supplies and Japanese society as a whole.

A Honda employee was killed and 17 injured during the earthquake.

Honda has long had a policy of localising production for its regional markets. Its CR-V, Jazz and Civic models are built in the UK at Swindon for European markets, but Accord is assembled in Japan.


Mazda was not directly affected by the earthquake or tsunami. How-ever, the carmaker has announced that it will suspend production at its Hiroshima and Hofu plants, around 600 miles from the disaster area, until March 20 to ensure the safety of its employees, their families and suppliers in the affected region and to support country-wide rescue efforts.

All Mazda cars are assembled in Japan.

A UK spokesman said: “Mazda has stopped production until March 20 due to supplier restrictions and the situation is fluid. However, we have about three months stock in Europe and we do not forecast any shortages.”


Mitsubishi models such as Colt and Outlander are built at its NedCar plant in Holland and the L200 at Mitsubishi’s factory in Thailand.

Vehicles such as Shogun, ASX, Lancer, Lancer Evolution X and the i-MiEV are all produced at three plants in Japan. Mitsubishi also makes the Ionand 4007 for Peugeot and C-Zero and C-Crosser for Citroën.

Although the plants were unaffected, some of Mitsubishi’s suppliers have been affected causing Mitsubishi to suspend production.

A spokesman said there are at least four months of vehicle supply on the ground in the UK. At present there are no known delays in vehicle production or supply from Japan.

However, this situation is being monitored closely.


Nissan said all its plants in Japan, except its Iwaki engine plant, had been able to repair damaged facilities and equipment, but were affected by deliveries of parts.

Nissan’s chief executive Carlos Ghosn said its supply base had been “devastated” by the earthquake.

Operations have been suspended temporarily at most plants.

However, in Europe 80% of Nissans sold in the region are manufactured locally and no immediate impact is anticipated.

Enough vehicles are in stock to maintain sales and deliveries for at least six weeks and supplies are already en-route to Europe to continue production. However, due to supply disruption, Nissan anticipates some impact in the medium term, but said it is too soon to determine the extent of that impact.


Fuji Heavy Industries, Subaru’s parent company, had suspended production until March 20 as the country continued to face power shortages.


Suzuki’s headquarters, manufacturing plants and shipping ports are all located about 300 miles south-west from the centre of the earthquake, where there has been no damaged reported.

However, it said it uses some suppliers and sub-contract facilities that are located within the affected area and the extent of their damage is being assessed.

The temporary suspension of production at all six plants has been extended to March 21.

The Grand Vitara and Jimny models are built in Japan, but a high proportion of Suzukis on sale in the UK are manufactured at the Magyar plant in Hungary (Splash, Swift SX4) and the Manesar plant in India (Alto).

Suzuki GB does not currently foresee any problems with UK supply of its Japanese-built vehicles.


In the UK, where 33% of all Toyotas sold are imported from Japan, Toyota says it has six weeks’ supply of new vehicles. Toyota’s 12 Japanese assembly plants are suspended until March 22.

These build models including Prius, Land Cruiser, Rav4, IQ and most Lexus cars.

Toyota’s Avensis and Auris models are built in the UK.

A UK spokeswoman added: “Toyota Motor Corporation has confirmed recommencing production of parts as from March 17 so currently we are hoping for minimal disruption.”


Dealership helps raise cash for earthquake victims

Japanese vehicle manufacturers have already pledged millions of pounds in funds and equipment to help its society overcome the devastation caused by the earthquake and tsunami.

Now UK dealer Steve Easton, dealer principal of Ash Honda in Dorset and Somerset has begun a campaign for his franchised network to make a donation from every new car sold until the end of this year to help communities
in Japan.

“I would hope that other Japanese car dealers would follow our example to contribute to the fund-raising for the Japanese people.

“Over the last 50 years, without the Japanese car manufacturers’ contribution to the worldwide economy where would we be today?” he said.


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