DETROIT -- Auto suppliers are assessing operations at plants in Japan after an 8.9-magnitude earthquake struck off the northern coast of the island nation.
And while not all automakers or suppliers were affected, the condition of the nation's port system was a growing concern today.
Suppliers BorgWarner Inc., Delphi Corp., TRW Automotive Inc., Visteon Corp. and Denso Corp. all reported that their Japan operations remained up and running today, despite the quake.
The quake struck at 2:46 p.m. local time off the coast of Sendai, the Japan Meteorological Agency reported. The tremor also triggered a tsunami that flooded coastal areas.
BorgWarner's plants and sales office were undamaged in the quake, said Erika Nielsen, director of marketing and public relations.
The engine and clutch components supplier operates plants in Aoyama, Narobi City and Fukuri City as well as a sales office in Shin-Yokoha -- all of which are southwest of Tokyo, nearly 200 miles away from the epicenter of the quake.
The Miyagi prefecture plant of Kariya, Japan-based Denso was damaged in the earthquake, said Bridgette Gollinger, spokeswoman at Denso's North American headquarters in suburban Detroit.
The plant was under construction with no workers present. The extent of the damage is unknown.
Denso's other Japanese operations were undamaged.
TRW operates nine plants, joint ventures and sales offices in Japan, all of which escaped damage because of the plants' distance from the epicenter.
"At this time we have no reports of major damages or injuries at TRW manufacturing facilities or offices in Japan -- which are primarily located in the south of Japan," said TRW spokesman John Wilkerson.
Five plants and offices of Visteon were not directly affected by the earthquake, the company said in an e-mailed statement.
Delphi's Tokyo sales office is still feeling the aftershocks, but no damage has been reported, said Lindsey Williams, director of communications.
Supply chain reaction
It is unknown whether the suppliers will need to slow production because of damage to plants owned by automakers or the lower tiers of their suppliers.
Toyota Motor Corp., Honda Motor Co., Nissan Motor Co. and Subaru suspended production at plants.
The shutdown could affect exports to the United States of such cars as the Toyota Yaris sedan, the Scion xB and Scion xD, as well as the Honda Fit small car, Accord sedan and CR-V crossover. The quake also hit production of the Acura and Infiniti lineups.
Although the manufacturing impact appears limited, the biggest threat to the automotive industry is the condition of Japan's ports after the tsunami engulfed the country's eastern seaboard, said Mike Wall, senior manager of strategic analysis for IHS Automotive Inc.
"As of now, it seems we've escaped with limited damage, but the state of the ports remains a big question mark," he said.
All Japanese ports closed in the wake of the tsunami, and no word has surfaced on damage.
However, the automotive industry's move to a more regionalized supply base likely saved production in North America, Wall said.
Most Japanese automakers used to import most parts from Japan.
"More and more, Japanese carmarkers are building their supply base here in North America," he said. "When you've got the entire vehicle built here, it helps insulate the industry from any significant impact from disasters like this," Wall said.
Rich Kwas, an auto analyst for Wells Fargo, said shipping from ports in Northern Japan could be limited in the near term, but ports in Central Japan (Tokyo and Yokohama) and Southern Japan could be operational soon, he wrote in a report today.
Kwas wrote that some U.S. suppliers could benefit near-term if Japanese automakers shift output to their North American facilities, but capacity at those U.S. operations is already an issue.
"So the ability to shift production to North America could be limited," he wrote. "That said, Johnson Controls would likely be the biggest beneficiary if that scenario played out."
Hans Greimel and Philip Nussel contributed to this report.