Japanese carmakers have been forced to shut plants in China and seen dealerships attacked by rioting protestors angry at Japan’s recent move to purchase the territorially-contested islands in the East China Sea, known as the Diaoyu by the Chinese and the Senkaku by the Japanese . The move comes around the anniversary of Japan’s invasion of China in 1931. The situation has been described as “the worst outbreak of anti-Japanese sentiment in decades”.

Honda, Mazda, Mitsubishi, Nissan and Toyota have all halted production, with reports that plants had been sabotaged. The situation is likely to affect suppliers to those facilities.

Citing local media sources, IHS Global Insight reports that Honda halted production at five of its plants for two days yesterday, while Mazda closed its plant in Nanjing for the rest of this week. Nissan is reported to have closed plants in Guangzhou and Zhengzhou and Mitsubishi has stopped production at its joint venture plant with Guangzhou Auto.

Toyota, which has facilities in Tianjin, Chengdu and Changchun, all of which closed, lost production of almost 2,000 vehicles on Tuesday according to IHS data.

A spokesman for Toyota told Automotive Logistics News that each of the carmaker’s operations in the country was making local decisions, “case by case” but because of the changing situation Toyota was not providing further details.

In an official statement Toyota Motor Corporation said: “Continuously placing utmost priority on employee safety, each of our affiliates and subsidiaries in China made decisions on whether or not to operate today (September 19) based on an overall assessment of the current situation. As such, some affiliates and subsidiaries are operating while some are not.”

Elsewhere, Honda’s losses were gauged at being more than 6,000 as of Wednesday, while Nissan had also lost production of around 6,000 vehicles. Mazda’s losses amount to 1,000. Total losses amongst the Japanese carmakers stood at nearly 15,000 for the week according to IHS figures.

The situation could escalate if control of it is not established immediately. “Until now, Japan and China had maintained a status quo regarding issues such as the Diaoyu Islands but this time the situation has escalated with Japanese cars, dealerships and plants being sabotaged,” said the analyst in a statement. It also said that it will be difficult for Japanese brands to recover the resultant lost sales in the immediate aftermath, with any prolonged disruption even forcing Japanese suppliers to look elsewhere for components.

Dealerships stocking Japanese brands have also been attacked and are reportedly unable to restock the damaged models.

“If retail sales from the dealer side don’t recover, it could be very difficult to return to the normal running rate level on the production side,” said Boni Sa, IHS Automotive’s light vehicle production forecast manager.