UPDATE 2-Japan automakers to rest weekdays in summer to ease burden on grid
* Car, car parts makers to rest Thu, Fri from Jul-Sep
* Auto industry to target 15 pct power use cut in summer
* Auto lobby seeks govt support to compete globally (Adds details on auto lobby meeting with government)
By Chang-Ran Kim
TOKYO, May 19 (Reuters) - Japanese automobile and auto parts makers collectively agreed to work on weekends and rest instead on Thursdays and Fridays to ease the burden on the grid during peak power consumption months in the summer, an industry lobby said on Thursday.
The extraordinary measure will be taken for three months from the first week of July to September at factories nationwide, the Japan Automobile Manufacturers Association (JAMA) said.
Electricity supply has been a problem in Japan since the March 11 earthquake and tsunami crippled facilities at Tokyo Electric Power Co and Tohoku Electric Power Co in the country's north and east. The government has since prompted the shutdown of a nuclear power station run by Chubu Electric Power , which powers the bulk of Toyota Motor Corp's group factories in central Japan and all of Suzuki Motor Corp's domestic factories.
The auto and parts industries had been studying the plan to help prevent rolling blackouts, which had disrupted production in the weeks after the disasters in March.
"Avoiding rolling blackouts is critical to the industry," JAMA Chairman Toshiyuki Shiga told a news conference.
The agreed measure would help automakers meet the government's request for big power consumers to reduce peak electricity usage by 15 percent during the summer without a significant cost burden, Shiga said.
Automakers such as Toyota, Nissan Motor Co and Honda Motor Co have said they are working to bring production back to pre-quake levels as soon as possible, most likely during the financial third quarter from October-December.
Power outages resulting from aftershocks remain one of the biggest threats for a smooth recovery, executives have said.
While the disruption to hundreds of parts makers in Japan affected vehicle production at automakers globally, domestic brands have been the hardest hit, with most of them suspending assembly lines in the first month.
Top executives at Japanese automakers met with Economy, Trade and Industry Minister Banri Kaieda on Thursday to repeat their plea for policies and actions to level the competitive playing field against rivals overseas.
"Our industry is facing very intense competition abroad," said Shiga, who is also chief operating officer at Nissan. "We've always just asked that we be able to compete on an equal footing."
Shiga added that concerns over power supply joined a long list of disadvantages that Japanese automakers already faced including a strong yen, high corporate tax rates and a paucity of free trade agreements. (Editing by Joseph Radford)
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