Toyota to restart hybrid output

Energy Reuters

TOKYO (Reuters) - Toyota Motor Corp said on Thursday it would restart production of three hybrid models on Monday after a massive earthquake this month disrupted output across the industry.

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Production will resume for the Prius, Lexus HS250h and CT200h at the Tsutsumi factory in central Japan and Toyota Motor Kyushu in the south, spokeswoman Shiori Hashimoto said. Toyota had halted operations at its 12 main assembly plants in Japan until at least Saturday, which will result in lost production of 140,000 vehicles.

"We will monitor the situation of parts availability carefully in deciding the duration of production," she said.

Problems with power and parts have prevented other Japanese automakers restarting assembly lines.

Honda Motor Co said on Thursday it would suspend car production at its Japanese factories until at least April 3, extending the stoppage by a week.

Japan's No.3 automaker said it would decide on plans beyond April 3 depending on the availability of parts. Honda will resume motorcycle and power product production at its Kumamoto factory in southern Japan on March 28.

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Honda said it would also temporarily transfer some functions such as car development and procurement out of its R&D facilities in Tochigi, which was badly hit by the March 11 earthquake.

Suzuki Motor Corp said its three assembly factories in Japan will remain closed on Thursday and Friday.

Other manufacturers with dwindling inventories are looking at slowing production of low-selling models. For instance, General Motors Co has temporarily idled its pickup plant in Shreveport, Louisiana.

Toyota said on Wednesday it would slow some North American production because of supply disruptions caused by the earthquake and subsequent tsunami.

Toyota told employees and dealers it was too early to determine the scope, timing and duration of a slowdown, but facilities in the United States, its single-biggest market, and in Canada and Mexico are all being considered.

Most parts for Toyota's North American-built vehicles come from about 500 suppliers in the region. The company said it continues to receive parts from Japan that were already in the pipeline, limiting the immediate impact of the disruption there.

SHIPPERS AVOIDING TOKYO

Some merchant ships may be avoiding Japan's Tokyo port due to concerns of radiation exposure to crew members from the quake-crippled Fukushima nuclear plant, an industry official said on Thursday.

Should this be the beginning of a trend in the shipping industry, Japan could face major delays and seaborne congestion at ports, adding to supply chain bottlenecks and hindering recovery efforts in the wake of the March 11 earthquake. "I have heard from local agents that some vessels are not calling in Tokyo due to radiation fears. I'm not sure how many," said Tetsuya Hasegawa, operating manager at Heisei Shipping Agencies in Tokyo. Lloyd's List reported on Thursday that Claus-Peter Offen, one of Germany's largest shipowners, had suspended calls for his company's entire fleet of 110 vessels to Tokyo and Yokohama because of radiation fears.

Tokyo is Japan's fourth largest port, handling 145 million deadweight tonnes last year, mainly containers, according to Lloyd's List Intelligence.

(Reporting by Randy Fabi in Singapore; Chikako Mogi and Chang-Ran Kim in Tokyo. Editing by Matthew Driskill)