Toyota, Sony and Honda suspend production following Japan quake

Toyota Motor Corp., Honda Motor Co., Sony and other firms suspended operations after a powerful earthquake struck Kyushu, damaging factories and supply chains.

Two earthquakes hit southern Japan on 14 April and 16 April, killing at least 41 people. The first quake hit the Kyushu Island on 14 April leaving 1,000 people injured and 11 still missing. This was followed by another quake that rocked Kumamoto on 16 April.

Japanese companies had made some changes to address this problem after the 2011 earthquake and tsunami which led to a nuclear disaster and caused nearly 20,000 deaths, affected the output of manufacturing companies. The news agency said that the way the companies deal with the impact of the latest quakes will show how effective the new changes are.

Honda suspended production at its motorcycle manufacturing plant in Ozu, Kumamoto. “It will take time to resume operations,” said a Honda official.

Toyota said it is suspending operations in stages at most of its vehicle assembly plants across the country for around a week starting from 18 April due to difficulties in sourcing parts from some of its suppliers, including affiliate Aisin Seiki.

Japan’s Nikkei newspaper has reported that Aisin Seiki has been forced to stop producing doors, engines and other parts at its subsidiary in the Kumamoto prefecture, as the area is still experiencing aftershocks. The company is making plans to shift production to other facilities at home and abroad.

Electronics giant Sony Corp, on the other hand, has said that production remains in suspension at its image sensor plant in Kumamoto as the company assessed structural and equipment damage, The company, however, said that it had resumed full operations at its plants in nearby Nagasaki and Oita, which also produces the sensors. The sensors are used in smartphone cameras, including Apple Inc.’s iPhones.

Sony controls about 40 percent of the market for Complementary Metal-Oxide Semiconductor (CMOS) image sensors, a type of integrated circuit that converts light into electrical signals. In smartphones they are used to convert images into digital data.

Samsung Electronics says it has diversified its sources for image sensors used in its smartphones and the quakes will have no impact on its flagship products.

Other electronics makers were also forced to stop production in Kyushu, which has grown as a manufacturing hub over the past two decades. Kyushu accounts for roughly 25 percent of semiconductor output in Japan by some estimates.

The earthquake in Kumamoto has also affected restaurants and retailers in the area. Supermarket operator Aeon kept all 27 stores in the area shut on Sunday.

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About the Author: Akhtar Jamal

Tribune International