[Updated 21st April] The two earthquakes that hit the Japanese island of Kyushu last week have halted operations at assembly facilities across the country, including Honda, Nissan, Toyota and Mitsubishi, and dramatically affected the tier supplier base in the region. The first earthquake, which was a magnitude 6.5, hit the Kumamoto Prefecture at 9.25pm local time on Thursday (14th). The second, which was magnitude 7.3, hit at 1.25am on Saturday (16th).
Honda has been forced to cease motorcycle production at its facility in Kumamoto Prefecture and said the factory would be out of action until at least the 28th of this month. The Kumamoto facility was affected by damage to its infrastructure and lighting. “We [are] continuing close investigation inside the factory due to continuous aftershocks following the earthquake,” said the spokesperson. Subsequent production plans would be determined according to facility restorations and component supply, according to Honda.
The plant makes ten motorcycle models, including the Gold Wing, Silver Wing and VFR1200F.
Toyota, meanwhile, has been forced to halt operations in stages across all of its plants in Japan.
The company’s Toyota Motor Kyushu (TMK) division has its Miyata plant toward the north of the island where it produces the Lexus HS, CT, RX, NX and ES, as well as the Toyota Sai. Toyota also directly operates two nearby components plants: the Kanda plant, which makes engines, and the Kokura plant, producing transaxles.
A spokesperson for the company confirmed to Automotive Logistics that it had initially stopped assembly at all three after the first earthquake, before restarting operations and then suspending two shifts on Friday while it assessed its suppliers’ status. Since then, and following the second earthquake, the company said that it would be suspending production at all of its plants in Japan in different stages between 18th-23rd April because of parts shortages caused by the impact on its supplier base.
The first shift at the Miyata plant on both lines will be suspended between Monday this week (18th) and Saturday (23rd), with similar action taken through the week at plants across Japan operated by the Toyota Group.
“Decisions regarding recommencement of operation at plants in Japan will be made on the basis of availability of parts,” said the company in a statement earlier in the week. However, it said on Wednesday this week (20th) that it would recommence production at most of the vehicle assembly plants between April 25th-28th
Production at Mitsubishi’s plant in Okayama has also been affected because of parts shortages but Nissan is reported to have restarted operations at its Fukuoka plant, which makes the Serna, Teana, Murano and Note vehicles. Nissan had suspended assembly at its plants in Kita-Kyushu on Saturday 16th.
“Nissan was fortunate that our facilities in Kyushu only received minor damage from the earthquakes and all of our employees are safe," a spokesperson told Automotive Logistics. "Following an assessment of our plants and supply chain, both Nissan Motor Kyushu and Nissan Shatai Kyshu plan to resume operations on Monday, April 18 (and have done so)."
The spokesperson added that Nissan was continuing to work with its partners in the region to ensure stability in its supply chain and stressed that the safety and well-being of its employees, suppliers and dealers was its first priority.
Impact on supply baseAmongst the suppliers to the automotive industry affected by the earthquake, parts supplier Aisin Seiki has stopped production at two of its plants in Kumamoto and is looking into supplying components from its other plants. The Kumamoto facilities make sun roofs, door parts and semi-conductors, among other products.
Tyre maker Bridgestone has stopped production at its facility in Kumamoto, as have Sony and Mitsubishi Electric, both of which make semi-conductors.
The earthquakes were the strongest to hit Japan since the Tohoku quake that devastated the north-east coast of Japan near Sendai in 2011, causing massive casualties and widespread damage – not least to the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant.
Last week’s quakes have killed more than 40 people and injured more than 800, according to the Japanese government. Around 45,000 people have been forced to take refuge in shelters and public buildings.
Honda expressed its condolences to those affected and said it would be contributing 50m yen ($460,000) to Kumamoto Prefecture as well as providing gasoline-powered generators and emergency food and water supplies. Toyota also said it would continue to make all possible efforts to offer support to the residents of Kyushu.