TOKYO -- Even as aftershocks rumbled in Japan last week, Toyota and its suppliers leapt to action to retrieve critical molds from an earthquake-stricken supplier factory and order substitute parts from China.
One distressed Toyota supplier contracted a nearby competitor to produce parts on its behalf until the disaster-rattled company could get its own operations back online.
The quick reflexes of Aisin Seiki, one of the world's top parts makers, largely helped its No. 1 customer pass the biggest test of crisis control since a devastating Japanese earthquake and tsunami in 2011 knocked the country's auto industry out of commission for months, sending ripples across the U.S. auto market.
Like all of Japan's automakers, Toyota has spent the five years since the March 2011 disaster strengthening itself for the next crisis. And when it hit this month, Toyota's preparation largely paid off.
"They are running by their playbook: Stop, assess and proceed," said Kurt Sanger, lead auto analyst with Deutsche Securities Japan. "It seems like an affirmation of their processes."
After the twin temblors of April 14 and 16, Toyota Motor Corp. initially suspended nearly all production in Japan.
But within days of that decision, it bounced back with plans to bring the plants online starting Monday, April 25. Most will be restored to full production by Thursday, April 28. For some factories, the shutdown will amount to as little as five days.