Image by Bloomberg

An earthquake hit Japan off the coast of the Fukushima prefecture measuring 7.4 on the Richter scale, triggering a tsunami warning and causing damage to infrastructure. Carmakers in the nation were temporarily closed to assess the damage but most have restarted operations. Toyota, however, has announced additional closures that affect vehicle production.

In total, 18 of Toyota’s assembly lines will be idled for at least three days next week as the carmaker’s parts suppliers get back online to produce and deliver components needed for assembly. Out of 14 plants that run 28 lines, 11 plants are affected. 

A statement on Friday from Toyota’s global operations said, “Due to the parts shortage resulting from suppliers affected by the earthquakes, additional adjustments will be made to production operations in some plants in Japan as follows. We sincerely apologize for any inconvenience these adjustments may cause our customers and relevant suppliers.”

The closure affects production for RAV4, Yaris, and Land Cruiser models as well as several Lexus vehicles. It’s estimated that the three days will represent approximately 20,000 units of lost production. 

Delays adding up for Toyota

The assembly line closures from the earthquake are just the latest in a handful of delays Toyota has experienced. One day previous, Toyota revised their global production targets for the quarter running April through June 2022, dropping it by 150,000 units. A calendar of production suspensions was published along with an apology to customers “who have been waiting for vehicles to be delivered”. 

In February, Toyota also had to reduce the expected production plans globally by around 100,000 units “due to the impact of semiconductor shortages”. 

Other manufacturing coming online

Japanese semiconductor chip manufacturer Renesas operates three plants near where the earthquake struck Wednesday night. Production was suspended immediately and damage is being assessed. It’s expected one or the plants, Yonezawa Factory will resume production in full capacity on Monday while the two others are expecting to “reach full pre-earthquake production capacity on March 23”. Production that was in process when the earthquake occurred is being assessed with results expected to be known by the 23rd.

Another tech supplier, Murata Manufacturing Co Ltd, shuttered production at four plants due to the quake. Two plants were closed for just one day while two others are expected to restart next week. Murata manufactures ceramic capacitors for the auto industry and smartphones.

Quake-prone area

The location of Wednesday night’s earthquake was eerily close to the devastating Great Sendai Earthquake that struck almost exactly 11 years ago. It measured 9.0 on the Richter scale and triggered massive tsunami waves that wreaked havoc on huge swaths of Japanese coastal communities. It also triggered a nuclear accident in Fukushima, which was the worst since the Chernobyl disaster in 1986. Toyota lost 74% of its production in the following month, with other carmakers suffering similar losses too.

That earthquake led to major adjustments in construction and manufacturing in the country, and this most recent earthquake put those changes to the test. The minimal expected disruptions are a testament to the resilience the automotive industry continues to exemplify globally. 

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