Japanese manufacturers extend shutdowns

Toyota, Sony and Honda announced further delays in returning to normal production levels Tuesday.
A U.S. Navy image taken Friday shows the damage to northern Honshu, Japan, the March 11 earthquake and subsequent tsunami. The region is home to tiny machine shops that supply bigger firms. Jay Okonek/Associated Press/US Navy) (Jay Okonek/Associated Press/US Navy))

Toyota, Sony and Honda announced further delays in returning to normal production levels Tuesday.

Three of Japan's best-known brands said the delays result from shortages of parts and power after the March 11 earthquake and tsunami.

The disaster closed 11 of Japan's 54 nuclear power plants  and damaged factories belonging to producers of auto parts, electronics components and industrial materials.

Toyota Motor Corp., the world's biggest car maker, and rival Honda Motor Co. said they have extended their shutdown of auto production in Japan to the weekend.

Toyota has lost production of about 140,000 vehicles since March 14.

Heavy equipment operators remove debris from a bridge in Ishinomaki, Miyagi Prefecture, Japan, on Tuesday. Damage to roads is one reason for the delay in returning to normal production levels. (Kyodo News/Associated Press)

Toyota's shutdown of 11 factories was extended from Tuesday to Saturday because of difficulty securing components.

Honda, which had previously announced the shutdown until Thursday of vehicle production at its Saitama and Suzuka factories and of motorcycles at its Kumamoto factory, extended those to Sunday.

Sony said operations at five plants, in Shizuoka, Aichi, Gifu and Oita, have been halted until the end of March.

They make broadcast equipment, camcorders, digital cameras, lenses for digital single-lens reflex cameras, cell phones, LCD TVs, microphones and headphones.

The effects are being felt across Asia, from Thailand to South Korea to Taiwan, as manufacturers who rely on imported Japanese semiconductors, auto parts, steel, LCD television panels and chemicals watch inventories dwindle.

Analysts said Japanese manufacturers might be hampered by power shortages, damage to roads and from overseas customers switching to new suppliers.

Shortages may spread across southeast Asia

In South Korea and elsewhere, concern is growing that reliance on Japanese imports will prove a big headache for industry.

"Chances are growing that supply disruptions will not end within one to two months," analysts at Hyundai Securities said in a report.

"If supply disruptions are prolonged, Korean companies that rely heavily on materials and components imported from Japan ... will likely see severe production setbacks."

Automakers are scrambling to find alternative parts suppliers to replace those disabled by the earthquake.

The disaster-stricken northeast is home mostly to tiny machine shops that make parts for secondary and other suppliers.

With files from The Associated Press