Earthquake Puts Brakes on Japan's Auto Production

March 14, 2011
Toyota halts production at all plants in Japan through Wednesday; one Honda worker killed.

As the death toll from Friday's earthquake and tsunami rises and Japan braces for the potential of more earthquakes and a nuclear meltdown, the nation's major automakers have suspended much of their production for the next few days.

Toyota has halted production at all of its plants in Japan -- including those of its subsidiaries -- through Wednesday. The automaker said it has established a company-wide emergency task force to assess the situation and determine how the company should proceed. "There have been no reported injuries at Toyota operations, including the Tokyo head office, the Higashifuji facility, Tochigi office, Yamanashi office, Toyota Motor Tohoku facilities and at [Toyota Motor Corp.] subsidiary vehicle manufacturers," the company said in a news release. Toyota noted it is donating 300 million yen (approximately $3.7 million) for relief and recovery efforts in communities affected by the earthquake. Nissan Pledges to Conserve Electricity Meanwhile, Nissan today said it is suspending operations at its Tochigi and Iwaki plants through Friday, and halting production at its Oppama, Kyushu, Nissan Shatai and Yokohama plants through Wednesday. Responding to the Japanese government's plea to conserve electricity, the automaker said it will shut off the air conditioning at its global headquarters and technical center and lower the lighting intensity inside its dealer showrooms in Japan, among other measures. Nissan said it will donate 30,000,000 yen (approximately U.S. $370,000) to the relief efforts. One Honda Worker Killed On Friday, Honda confirmed that one of its employees died and more 30 were injured in the Tochigi area during the earthquake. "Damage was widespread in the Tochigi area, where Honda has a number of operations," the automaker said in a news release. The fatality occurred at Honda's Tochigi R&D Center when a wall collapsed in a cafeteria. The Honda employee was a 43-year-old male, according to the company. The more than 30 injuries were from collapsing ceilings and other damage during the earthquake. On Friday, Honda said a number of its plants in Japan will be closed through today. They include its Tochigi Engine facility; Saitama Two plants; and Hamamatsu Two plants. Its Suzuka facility, which makes a number of hybrid vehicles, operated Friday but will not operate today. Honda noted that its Kumamoto factory in Southern Japan, which makes motorcycles, is operating. "Honda in Japan is assessing the resumption of operations and the long-term impact to its operations from the Japan earthquake," the company said in a news release. The company added that the disaster will have "no immediate impact on Honda's operations in North America," as more than 80% of Honda and Acura products sold in the United States are produced in North America. Mazda Suspends Operations Mazda announced that it has suspended operations at its Hiroshima and Hofu plants from the March 14 night shift through Wednesday's night shift. "Mazda will announce any further production changes for March 17 as soon as a decision is made," the company said. Follow IndustryWeek senior editor Josh Cable on Twitter at @JCable_IW . See Also:
About the Author

Josh Cable | Former Senior Editor

Former Senior Editor Josh Cable covered innovation issues -- including trends and best practices in R&D, process improvement and product development. He also reported on the best practices of the most successful companies and executives in the world of transportation manufacturing, which encompasses the aerospace, automotive, rail and shipbuilding sectors. 

Josh also led the IndustryWeek Manufacturing Hall of Fame, IW’s annual tribute to the most influential executives and thought leaders in U.S. manufacturing history.

Before joining IndustryWeek, Josh was the editor-in-chief of Penton Media’s Government Product News and Government Procurement. He also was an award-winning beat reporter for several small newspapers in Northeast Ohio.

Josh received his BFA in creative writing from Bowling Green University, and continued his professional development through course-work at Ohio University and Cuyahoga Community College.

A lifelong resident of the Buckeye State, Josh currently lives in the Tremont neighborhood of Cleveland. When the weather cooperates, you’ll find him riding his bike to work, exercising his green thumb in the backyard or playing ultimate Frisbee.  

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