Toyota extends earthquake-related factory closings for week

As rescue workers continued to comb the wreckage caused by a pair of earthquakes that rocked Kyushu, the automaker, Toyota, announced that it will shut its production for at least another week.

The earthquakes that rocked southwest Japan Thursday and Saturday continued to wreak havoc with Toyota’s manufacturing as the automaker announced plans to shut down nearly all of its production. The quakes, which rolled through Kyushu and especially had an impact on Kumamoto city, have come at a particularly tough time for the world’s number one carmaker. Toyota, whose shipments to the U.S. have been particularly car-heavy, has been trying to swing the balance over to hot-selling crossovers.

The automaker said today that it halted production of the sought-after Lexus RX and NS crossovers, the Prius hybrid and some trucks. The Toyota RAV4, another hot-seller has also been impacted. The automaker shutdown operations on the lines that make the Toyota 4Runner, a popular SUV, and the luxury Land Cruiser, as well as the luxury, Lexus GX and LX SUVs.

Also, Toyota indicated that all other lines at Toyota will be down. The shutdown is slated to affect nearly all of the nameplates exported to the U.S. The list includes the Lexus Es, LS, IS and GS sedans, the RC coupe and CT hatch. Production of the Scion tC and xB is also down as well as the new Mirai hydrogen fuel cell vehicle.

Toyota isn’t the only automaker to have felt the impact of the quake. Nissan was forced to curtail work on the assembly lines that produce the hot-selling crossover Rogue for two days while they were checked for safety. And, Mitsubishi shutdown an assembly line Monday and planned another shutdown on Tuesday due to a lack of parts.

The scarcity of parts indicates the second major issue that the quakes exposed, the parts supply chain. In 2011, when the last major earthquake hit the island nation, Renesas, its largest supplier of microchip control units, saw its production drop off to nil in a major northeastern manufacturing facility. The assembly line went down and stayed down for some months. The shutdown put significant strains on the car industry which has worked to find work-arounds to cope with similar unexpected shutdowns.

Since that major shutdown, automakers have been working with supply chain manufacturers to iron out potential choke points and shutdowns. Though Renesas has been seeking to re-enter its Kumamoto plant to inspect the damage, they have been slow to get clearance, and the production has been cut.

Renesas isn’t the only supplier that has been impacted by the earthquakes. Aisin Seiki, a major supplier of hard parts, such as sunroofs, door handles and the like, as well as diecast engine parts, has announced that its two Kyushu plants are down following the quakes. They had no estimate of when they would be back in production. And, Mitsubishi Electric, a subsidiary of Mitsubishi, has had two of its plants knocked out of commission, causing parts shortages, especially in displays and power semiconductors that are used extensively in hybrid and electric vehicles. Mitsubishi had no estimate of when their factories will return to prodution as the electronics supplier indicated there was damage at each plant. Toyota had no estimate of the number of units that would be lost by the shutdown.

The Toyota shutdowns are the result of a pair of earthquakes that rocked the southwestern part of Japan Thursday and Saturday. The quakes occurred on the island of Kyushu, around Kamamoto city. The first temblor, a 6.2-magnitude quake, struck at night on April 14. A second quake rocked the same area early Saturday. It measured 7.0 on the Richter scale.

More than 40 people have been reported killed, and 1,000 have been injured. Rescue workers are continuing their efforts to find victims buried beneath collapsed buildings.

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