Toyota, Nissan to Resume Production

Will restart mid-April but at 50% of regular levels

Toyota and Nissan said on March 8 that they will restart all domestic assembly plants from around mid-April after production was halted due to the nation's biggest recorded earthquake.

In doing so they will join rival Honda in resuming production, although all three have warned output will be at 50% of usual levels.

Honda said on March 31 that it planned to restart all plants by April 11. All three companies will be producing vehicles by April 18.

Toyota will start operating its assembly plants from the morning shift of April 18 until April 27, a company spokesman said. Plants will then become idle for the Golden Week holiday season, as they do every year, through May 10, a spokeswoman said, adding that no decision had been made on the post-Golden Week schedule.

Rival Nissan said it would also resume production around the same time, beginning with the first plant on April 11.

"When I visited dealers, vendors, and our own factories, I heard people's desire to return to normal. That's what pushed me to resume our operations," Toyota President Akio Toyoda said on April 8. "There are still issues with supplies of parts. But we will try to improve ourselves so that we can build as many vehicles as possible and deliver them to our customers."

The restart plan comes as a boost to Toyota, which on April 6 was threatened with a downgrade of its long-term credit rating by Moody's. Moody's said it placed Toyota's Aa2 rating -- the third highest on a scale of 19 -- on review for a possible downgrade, one month after Standard & Poor's cut its rating on the automaker. The agency warned that Toyota's production would not return to normal for "months" and cited the automaker's dependence on a Japanese market expected to be hit by weak consumer sentiment following the disasters.

While Toyota had earlier resumed production of its Prius and some Lexus hybrid models after the magnitude 9.0 earthquake, its 16 other plants were idled amid a component supply crunch.

Copyright Agence France-Presse, 2011

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