* Toyota to restart all Japan plants on April 18
* Nissan to resume production in stages from April 11-18
* Honda to restart all car plants April 11
* Honda CEO wants return to pre-quake production in 2-3
By Chang-Ran Kim
TOKYO, April 8 Japan's top automakers plan to
resume production at all domestic factories in stages starting
on Monday, but output levels will be at half of original plans
and at the mercy of parts availability, while fresh power
outages further clouded the outlook.
A historic 9.0-magnitude earthquake on March 11 off Japan's
northeastern coast damaged equipment, cut off electricity and
disrupted automakers' complex supply chain over the past month,
forcing them to suspend work at most factories.
On Thursday night, another big tremor shook the devastated
coast of northeast Japan, cutting off power to tens of thousands
of households and causing a key supplier to the auto industry,
Renesas Electronics , to shut four factories.
Despite the new disruption, Toyota Motor Corp said
its group will reopen all 18 factories that build Toyota and
Lexus cars from April 18 to 27, including a brand new site owned
by subsidiary Central Motor that has lost power from Thursday's
With supply of about 150 components still disrupted, Toyota
said it would work at about half the rate of initial plans. Its
factories will be closed, as planned, between April 28 and May 9
for Japan's "Golden Week" holidays and Toyota will decide on
production plans beyond that while monitoring the flow of
The world's biggest automaker had restarted limited
production of three hybrid models at two plants on March 28, and
a third factory will begin producing two more models next
Monday. It has lost potential production of 260,000 units during
the unprecedented 20-day suspension to date.
Second-ranked Nissan Motor Co said it would resume
normal production using parts delivered from suppliers, rather
than inventory, in stages starting on April 11, with the last
assembly plant to resume on April 18. [ID:nL3E7F80W8]
A dearth of supply from Renesas, the world's top maker of
microcontroller chips, is one of the main headaches for
automakers, including those outside Japan that have been
affected by the earthquake. A Renesas spokeswoman said it was
not clear when manufacturing would resume, although power had
been restored to one plant. [ID:nL3E7F804E]
Even as Japanese factories gradually resume work, analysts
expect production overseas to begin falling as parts run out.
Nissan said it would halt output at its Sunderland plant, in
northeast England, for three days later this month, while Toyota
and Honda are also bracing for lower output in some factories
outside Japan. [ID:nL3E7F73J1]
Credit Suisse analysts have drawn up a base scenario under
which Japanese automakers' global output would fall 19 percent
in the business year that started this month assuming several
factors, including the restart of Renesas's damaged Naka factory
in July. Depending on how smoothly the recovery goes, the drop
could range between 15 to 50 percent, the brokerage said.
The head of Honda Motor Co , which is due to restart
limited production at all car plants on April 11, said he wanted
to return to production levels before the March 11 quake in two
to three months.
"We will strive to get back to normal operation as soon as
possible by stabilising parts supply while also considering
other options including changing the model mix at some
production plants," Chief Executive Takanobu Ito told reporters
at Honda's quake-hit R&D centre in Tochigi prefecture on Friday.
Ito, who visited the Tochigi site on his motorbike two days
after the earthquake, said he expected a two-week delay in
vehicle development which he hoped to make up during the current
business year. The earthquake last month badly damaged the R&D
facility, killing one employee when a wall collapsed on him.
Toyota shares ended up 1.4 percent, Honda rose 1.4 percent
and Nissan lost 0.8 percent, while the main Nikkei average
put on 1.9 percent.
(Additional reporting by Kentaro Sugiyama in Haga-machi,
Tochigi; Editing by Joseph Radford)