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Quake and Tsunamis Affect Japan's Auto Industry

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author photo by Autotrader March 2011

The Japanese auto industry, like much of Japan, was brought to its knees Friday by a massive earthquake and ensuing tidal wave that rocked the island nation. Several automakers shut down production facilities in the wake of the disaster while others were rocked by damage at ports, where televised news coverage showed fires engulfing hundreds of cars waiting to be shipped overseas.

Plants were closed by Honda, Mitsubishi, Nissan, Subaru, and Toyota following the disaster, affecting production of several models sold in the United States. Toyota has the largest presence in the region of any automaker, manufacturing the Scion xB and xD hatchbacks and compact Yaris in near the heavily-damaged city of Sendai. Its plants were closed immediately after the disaster, as was a Honda plant producing the compact Fit hatchback and Acura RL and TSX sedans.

"We are still trying to get information from them," said a Toyota spokesman, of the shuttered plants. "As for production from here out, we will make a decision after we get a handle on the situation."

A fire also broke out at Nissan's Tochigi plant, where the Infiniti M sedan and high-performance Nissan GT-R are manufactured, but was quickly extinguished. But Nissan's troubles didn't end there, as the automaker reported that around 1,300 Infiniti models awaiting export to the United States were heavily damaged in port fires in Hitachi, about 150 miles from the quake's epicenter. Video of the destruction, broadcast on several national news networks, showed a massive fire surrounding cars tossed around like toys. Nissan, which also announced it would be closing four factories until it could reliably get parts from suppliers, said around 1,000 vehicles were further damaged at a service center closer to the quake zone.

It wasn't just factories affected by the quake, but corporate offices as well. Honda closed its research and development center – around 150 miles from the heaviest destruction – after an employee died when a cafeteria wall collapsed during the quake. Nissan also evacuated its technology center near Tokyo after power was cut to the area.

Closing factories in the wake of the earthquake wasn't limited to the Japanese auto industry. Electronics giants Sony and Toshiba also temporarily halted production, as did many technology suppliers. Analysts are predicting the suspension of production throughout all industries could spell temporary troubles for Japan's heavily manufacturing-based economy.

Donate to the American Red Cross to help with Japan earthquake and Pacific tsunami relief efforts.

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Quake and Tsunamis Affect Japan's Auto Industry - Autotrader