Violent Earthquake Hits Japan, Disrupts Toyota, Honda, Nissan Production

A magnitude 8.9 earthquake recorded off the coast of Japan shook the island nation earlier this morning. As the most violent natural disaster ever witnessed by the country, its lasting effects have wreaked havoc on the lives of millions, to say nothing of the nation's domestic auto industry.

Striking at 2:46 p.m. local time, buildings located in Tokyo -- some 240 miles from the earthquake's epicenter -- were shaking from the seismic activity. Hours after the initial event, 6-magitude aftershocks continue to trouble the region. Predictably, industry has virtually slowed to a standstill, and some automakers, especially those located in the northern region of the country, have halted production altogether.

Of Japan's automakers, Toyota has the largest presence in northern Japan, and will perhaps be most affected by the quake. The automaker has several manufacturing facilities in the region, including a number of parts facilities and a handful of partners responsible for producing the company's small cars. Toyota has halted production at those facilities, and briefly suspended production at its plants in central Japan. The automaker notes some of its supplier base was also affected by the quake, which could also interrupt future production schedules.

In a prepared release, Honda notes one employee at its research and development center in Tochigi perished in the quake, while several others sustained injuries. Production at its Saitama factory, which builds the Legend (Acura RL), CR-V, Japanese-spec Accord and Accord Wagon (Acura TSX), along with a number of small MPV models. The company's Suzuka plant, which builds the CR-Z, Insight, and Fit, was briefly idled during the earthquake but has reportedly resumed production.

Subaru temporarily closed five plants as a result of the earthquake. Nissan notes it doesn't anticipate any immediate affect from the event, but has suspended production at four plants until March 13.  Mitsubishi, Mazda, and Suzuki have not commented on any post-quake production amendments

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