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Car plant closures extended in Japan

Workers assembled Yaris sedans at Toyota’s plant in Miyagi Prefecture in this February photograph. The Japanese automaker has extended shutdowns of its auto assembly plants affected by the earthquake and tsunami. Workers assembled Yaris sedans at Toyota’s plant in Miyagi Prefecture in this February photograph. The Japanese automaker has extended shutdowns of its auto assembly plants affected by the earthquake and tsunami. (Koji Sasahara/ Associated Press/ File)
Associated Press / March 17, 2011

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WASHINGTON — Yesterday Japanese auto companies extended shutdowns of assembly plants affected by the country’s devastating earthquake and tsunami, but in a sign of progress, some parts factories plan to resume production later this week.

Toyota Motor Corp. said it will extend production halts at its car plants through Tuesday. The company halted production Monday and had thought it would restart yesterday.

Toyota, however, will resume production today at factories that make replacement parts for vehicles already on the road. And Monday it will restart plants that make parts for overseas factories.

Japan is the world’s second-largest producer of automobiles after China, and is a top trade partner with the United States, which imported 1.2 million vehicles from Japan in 2009. The earthquake, tsunami, and radiation from damaged nuclear power plants have raised concerns of falling supplies of high-mileage cars made only in Japan. Those models include the Honda Fit and Toyota Yaris and hybrids such as the Toyota Prius.

Among other affected plants:

Nissan Motor Co. said it was resuming production at two assembly factories today and tomorrow for as long as its inventory of parts lasts. Three other Nissan plants are suspending production until Sunday.

Workers at most of Nissan’s plants have been able to repair damage, although restoration efforts will take longer at the Iwaki engine plant because of aftershocks. The company said it is still taking time to arrange delivery of parts from suppliers.

Nissan said all North American manufacturing plants will continue to operate on schedule. It does not expect any short-term impact on sales or availability of cars and trucks.

■ Honda Motor Co. has suspended production at six Japanese plants through the end of the week, along with a research and development center and an engineering office.

Honda’s auto plants will remain closed because of the shortage of parts from northeastern Japan, where the earthquake and tsunami were centered.

Mazda and Subaru plants will remain closed through Sunday. Mitsubishi was running three plants yesterday and today.