In a change of tone from initial announcements, Japanese automakers have acknowledged that it may take a long time for vehicle production to return to full capacity in the wake of the deadly earthquake and tsunami on March 11. Executives from Nissan and Toyota told Reuters today that regular production might not resume for several more weeks.
Nissan CEO Carlos Ghosn said he hopes that the company’s Iwaki engine plant, located approximately 30 miles from the damaged Fukushima nuclear plant, will be able to open by the end of April. The Iwaki plant opened in 1994 and was expanded in 2005 to build the VQ series of V-6 engines.
Toyota has stopped production at 18 of its factories in Japan, and executives say they don’t plan to resume work at the plants until April 11. However, production of the Toyota Prius, Lexus HS250h, and Lexus CT200h hybrids resumed yesterday.
Honda has also been affected, with the company’s research and development facilities in Utsonomiya damaged by the natural disasters. According to Automotive News, repairing the building could take several months. Until then, Honda will move some research operations to other, undamaged facilities, although there will still be a two-week delay in the company’s R&D efforts. Vehicle production at the company’s assembly plants has been postponed until “at least” April 3.
The ripple effect of automaker shutdowns has been felt around the world: Toyota today announced it will have to ration its remaining stock of spare parts, and even Ford has been left short of pigments essential for certain paint colors.