TOKYO -- Some Japanese resumed limited production of auto parts in Japan beginning today, taking another step to restart operations following an earthquake, tsunami and nuclear crisis that has disrupted industrial output across the country for more than a week now.
Manufacturers are also facing rolling power outages, aftershocks and delays in the supply chain.
Japan automakers in the first two weeks after the March 11 earthquake and tsunami will lose about 65 percent in light vehicle production, industry consultant IHS Automotive Insight said Monday in a report.
Japan output is normally about 37,200 vehicles per day, or about 521,000 in a two-week period. IHS said that nearly 338,000 vehicles will have been lost through Friday.
Lost production outside of Japan is so far about 10,000 vehicles, but that number will rise "exponentially" as more parts suppliers are affected, reducing stockpiles of components for cars and trucks built overseas, IHS said.
Nissan Motor Co. resumed output at some parts factories Monday, and will start up operations at six other plants and some vehicle assembly plants on Thursday.
Nissan's facilities in Iwaki, located in the same prefecture where Tokyo Electric Power Co. workers are battling to avert a nuclear meltdown, aren't getting enough water, electricity and gas to operate. The affected Nissan sites include a key engine plant.
"The stoppage at Iwaki is not affecting North American production now, but it could possibly in the long term and that's what we are evaluating," said David Reuter, head of communications for Nissan's U.S. arm.
Toyota Motor Corp. , Japan's biggest automaker, plans to keep 21 auto and components plants closed until Tuesday, when it will reassess production plans. It plans to resume output of key parts for overseas assembly plants this week.
Toyota is facing worst-case scenarios of long-term production shortfalls as factories remain closed and workers are idled in the aftermath of the earthquake and tsunami.
Toyota's efforts to resume production are complicated by the need for hundreds of different components to build cars from a variety of different suppliers that may have suffered plant damage during the quake and tsunami.
"This will be played out not in days, but in weeks," said John Hoffecker, head of the automotive practice at consulting firm AlixPartners LLP in Detroit. "Nothing on this scale has really occurred before."
Volvo, the Swedish automaker, was working with just a 10-day supply of Japanese-built navigation and climate control systems, The New York Times reported today.
Toyota's shutdown affects about 95,000 units of production, of which 60 percent is for shipment to markets including the United States.
Honda Motor Co. has closed six factories, including three car factories and one motorcycle assembly plant that will be shut until Wednesday, the company says.
Honda, which builds more than 80 percent of its vehicles for the U.S. market in North American plants, has suspended orders from U.S. dealers for Japan-built models. Honda told U.S. Honda and Acura dealers, who typically order vehicles six weeks in advance, of the plan in a memo last week.
Mazda Motor Corp. and Suzuki Motor Corp. will reopen plants on Tuesday.
The GM situation
Meanwhile, General Motors Co. said today it temporarily suspended some production at its Buffalo, N.Y., engine plant due to a shortage of parts from Japan that also forced the automaker to idle a pick-up truck plant in Louisiana.
Fifty-nine of the 623 hourly employees at the Tonawanda engine plant were temporarily laid off this week. Most of the plant is still functioning, a GM spokeswoman said.
The workers make engines for the Chevrolet Colorado and GMC Canyon, which are made at GM's Shreveport assembly plant. GM idled the plant this week. The workers will get about 75 percent of their pay this week, GM said. No decision has been made on when they will return to work.
GM also said its South Korean unit will cut overtime work at two of three factories for a week starting today, on concerns part supplies from Japan will be interrupted.
The automaker's Korean unit imports 4 percent of its auto parts from Japan for two models -- the Chevrolet Spark mini car and the Chevrolet Cruze compact, The Wall Street Journal reported. The cut in overtime will trim output by 10 percent. GM Korea has been producing about 70,000 to 80,000 units a month.
In Europe, GM said output of its Corsa small car has been suspended at plants in Spain and Germany because of a lack of Japanese-made parts.
The automaker has also suspended all nonessential spending and global travel while it assesses the impact of the crisis in Japan on the company.
GM CEO Dan Akerson sent a companywide notice asking employees to hold off on any expenses that aren't critical, a company spokesman told The Wall Street Journal.
"An automobile has 5,000 parts," said Maryann Keller, an analyst and principal of a self-titled consulting firm in Stamford, Conn. "It has to be produced with every single one of them."
Bloomberg News, Reuters, and David Phillips and Mark Rechtin of Automotive News contributed to this report.