Ford to idle Belgian plant to conserve parts

CHICAGO (Reuters) - Ford Motor Co <F.N> will idle its auto plant in Genk, Belgium, for five days starting April 4, to conserve parts following the earthquake and nuclear crisis in Japan that has disrupted supplies for numerous automakers.

The shutdown had been set for May but the automaker chose to idle the plant sooner "to ensure we have sufficient parts availability," Ford spokesman Todd Nissen said on Saturday.

"Given the current situation in Japan, we took this as a precautionary measure. To be clear, we haven't experienced any plant disruptions as a result of a parts shortage at this point," he said.

Ford's Genk Assembly plant, about 50 miles east of Brussels, produces the S-MAX and Galaxy minivans and the Mondeo sedan.

The severe earthquake and tsunami that struck Japan on March 11 and the ensuing crisis at the Fukushima-Daiichi nuclear power plant has disrupted supplies of auto parts and other materials for much of the automotive industry.

Ford has thus far felt only a minimal impact from the Japanese crisis, although the No. 2 U.S. carmaker has stopped taking orders for certain color vehicles due to shortages of a specialty pigment produced at an evacuated plant near the crippled reactor.

(Reporting by Karl Plume; Editing by Xavier Briand)