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Toyota, Nissan Idle 2 Assembly Plants in Wake of Earthquake

Apr 19 2016

TOKYO -- Toyota Motor Corp. and Nissan Motor Co. have suspended production at two plants that export Lexus and crossover vehicles to the U.S. after a strong earthquake in southwest Japan disrupted operations at key suppliers.


Fallout from the quake also began to spread beyond the southwestern island of Kyushu where the temblor hit.


Mitsubishi Motors Corp. planned to halt operations at its Okayama assembly plant on Japan’s main island of Honshu on Monday and Tuesday because of supply chain problems, Japan’s Nikkei newspaper said. A spokesman was not immediately available for comment early Saturday morning in Japan.


In the Kyushu quake zone, a body part factory and die-casting plant, both operated by Toyota group supplier Aisin Seiki Co., were damaged in the magnitude-6.2 quake on Thursday that killed at least 10 people and injured hundreds.


Automotive microcontroller maker Renesas Electronics Corp. also said it shut down its Kawashiri factory near the quake’s epicenter. It was assessing possible damage and did not say when operations at the plant would resume. The plant makes automotive chips among other semicondutors, the Nikkei said.


No workers were injured at either the Aisin Seiki or Renesas factories, the companies said.


The Aisin Seiki plants make sunroofs, door frames, door handles, and other body parts as well as cast-metal engine parts. Both factories are located in Kumamoto city near the epicenter of the quake. The plants supply local assembly operations of Toyota, Daihatsu and Nissan.


Operations at both parts factories stopped immediately after the quake, but workers were not able to get inside to evaluate the factories until Friday evening because of aftershocks. The spokesman said it appears there is serious damage inside the plants. The exteriors of the plants have minor structural damage, including collapsed walls and broken windows, the Aisin spokesman said.


The supplier disruption was not expected to impact production at assembly plants elsewhere in Japan. Aisin could not indicate when production will resume at either plant.


Toyota impact


Toyota suspended output for both shifts on Friday and Saturday at its main Lexus assembly plant in southwestern Japan to confirm the stability of its supply chain.


There were no reports of damage at the Miyata assembly plant, in Fukuoka prefecture on Japan’s western island of Kyushu, nor at nearby engine and transaxle plants, a Toyota spokesman said.


After canceling the first production shift on Friday, Toyota decided to also cancel the second -- and to continue idling the operations on Saturday. The company needed more time to dig into lower tiers of the supply chain to ensure deliveries of sub-components wouldn’t be interrupted, the spokesman said.


Toyota will reassess the supply chain on Sunday and make a decision about resuming output on Monday. The factories were not scheduled to be in production on Sunday.


Toyota also suspended operations for Friday and Saturday at an engine factory and at a transaxle factory near the assembly plant.


The plant, operated by Toyota subsidiary Toyota Motor Kyushu, builds the Lexus HS, ES and CT cars, along with the RX and NX crossovers. The Toyota Sai hybrid is also built at the factory. The plant has annual capacity of 340,000 vehicles.


The plant exports the Lexus CT, ES, RX and NX to the U.S.


The first shift runs from 6 a.m. to 2:40 p.m. The second shift starts at 2:50 p.m. on line one and at 4 p.m. on line two.


A magnitude-6.2 earthquake struck the neighboring prefecture of Kumamoto at 9:26 p.m. local time Thursday, killing at least nine people and injuring hundreds, according to local media reports.


A much bigger, deadlier earthquake that devastated northern Japan and triggered a massive tsunami and nuclear meltdown in March 2011 knocked much of Japan’s auto production offline for months after it severed supply lines of key components.


In that disaster, the lengthy shutdown was triggered largely by disruption of microchip supply after a separate Renesas semiconductor factory in eastern was damaged by the shaking.


After Thursday’s quake, Toyota briefly stopped production in Kyushu but resumed the second shift as normal. It stopped operations the next morning to better assess suppliers.


Nissan's status


Nissan, which operates an assembly plant near Toyota’s in Fukuoka, continued output after the quake and was operating as normal on Friday, a spokesman said.


Nissan had no immediate reports of damage at its plants and logistics were so far unaffected, the spokesman said.


Nissan, however, said the plant will not operate on Saturday due to damage at its supplier.


"Decisions on operations from the 18th onward will be made based on further evaluation of the supplier situation," Nissan said in a statement.


Nissan’s plant, operated as Nissan Motor Kyushu Co., makes such vehicles as the X-Trail and Murano crossovers, the Note hatchback, the Teanna sedan and the Serena van.


A sister operation, run by Nissan Shattai Co., manufactures the Infiniti QX80 SUV and Nissan Quest van among other nameplates. The X-Trail is called the Rogue in North America.


Earlier this month, Nissan’s Kyushu plant began producing the Rogue to feed booming demand for the crossover in the U.S. But it has not begun shipping the vehicles yet.

By Auto News | April 19, 2016 | Hans Greimel

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