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Japan automakers seek parts suppliers

By Yuri Kageyama
Associated Press / March 19, 2011

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TOKYO — Japan’s major automakers are trying to find alternative parts suppliers to replace those knocked out of action by the colossal earthquake last week that has forced most of the country’s car production to a halt.

Analysts say production is likely to resume within the next few weeks, bouncing back from the March 11 quake and tsunami that killed more than 6,000 people. Once parts are coming, automakers will be able to make up for much of the lost production in coming months, they say.

What’s likely to hurt in the longer run are logistical difficulties caused by destroyed roads and limits on electricity use. Power stations have suffered damage including several nuclear power reactors that are beyond recovery — and leaking radiation in a still unfolding crisis. The yen’s recent surge to record highs could also hamper automakers.

Toyota Motor Corp., maker of the Prius hybrid and Lexus luxury models, has stopped production at assembly plants throughout Japan through Tuesday.

Among Japan’s automakers, Toyota will probably be least affected because most of its suppliers are located near the company’s Nagoya headquarters, southwest of Tokyo, which is far from the disaster’s epicenter in the northeast.

Honda Motor Co. said its production halt at auto assembly plants in Japan will be extended by three days until Wednesday.

Earlier this week, Nissan Motor Co. and Mitsubishi Motors Corp. restarted some plants using their stocks of parts, which will continue only as long as inventory lasts.