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Toyota to curb N. America production after quake

By JOE McDONALD
The Associated Press
Thursday, March 24, 2011; 1:03 AM

TOKYO -- Toyota Motor Corp., the world's biggest automaker, said Thursday it expects to halt production at some of its factories in North America due to shortages of parts from Japan following a devastating earthquake.

Toyota's move adds to the spreading economic damage from the magnitude-9.0 quake and tsunami on March 11 that killed thousands of people and triggered an unfolding nuclear crisis. Japanese automakers suspended production in Japan and are still deciding when to resume full-scale operations.

In a statement released in New York, Toyota said it was unclear which North American facilities will be affected or how long the suspension might last. It gave no indication how many employees might be affected.

The company said the impact should be limited because a majority of parts used by its North American factories came from suppliers there. It said the facilities still are receiving parts from Japan that were sent before the quake.

"Today, we communicated to team members, associates and dealers here that some production interruptions in North America are likely," the Toyota statement said. "It's too early to predict location or duration."

Japanese automakers suspended production after the March 11 quake due to damage to suppliers' factories and power shortages.

Toyota, maker of the Prius hybrid and Lexus luxury models, resumed production of repair parts last week but says the shutdown of its 11 auto factories in Japan will last at least until Saturday. It has lost production of about 140,000 vehicles since March 14.

Rival Honda Motor Co. says suspension of production at its Saitama and Suzuka auto factories and a motorcycle plant in Kumamoto will last through Sunday.

Japanese automakers are expected to rebound once they restart production but industry analysts say they will be hampered by power shortages and damage to roads.

Last week, Nissan Motor Co. and Mitsubishi Motors Corp. restarted some plants using their stocks of parts, but said that would continue only as long as inventory lasts.

Japanese automakers are scrambling to find alternative parts suppliers to replace those disabled by the quake. Japan's disaster-stricken northeast is home to small machine shops that make parts for secondary and other suppliers.

Repercussions from the quake have spread through global auto manufacturing.

In the United States, General Motors Co. halted some production at an engine plant in Buffalo, New York, and temporarily laid off 59 of its 623 workers due to disruptions in manufacturing elsewhere.

The Buffalo facility supplies engines for compact pickups assembled in Shreveport, Louisiana. GM shut down the Shreveport factory due to a shortage of parts from Japan.

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Toyoto Motor Corp.:http://www.toyota.com

© 2011 The Associated Press