By Hiroyuki Kachi And Yoshio Takahashi
Hobbled by Friday's earthquake, Japan's manufacturing sector faced a new challenge from power shortages, which forced closings even at plants that escaped damage last week.
And as Japanese factories that make cars and chips halted operations, that threatened to interrupt some supplies across the globe, at least temporarily.
Japan's auto makers all but shut down production, closing plants that supply not only cars for domestic sale, but also engines and other parts needed by assembly plants around the world. For some models, such as Toyota Motor /zigman2/quotes/200537742/composite TM +3.04% Corp.'s Prius hybrid, Japan is the only source.
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Japanese authorities said coordinated power outages would begin Monday and last at least several weeks to deal with supply shortages. Prime Minister Naoto Kan said there was a risk of large-scale electrical outages, in large part because the country's nuclear reactor fleet, which supplies 20% of the country's electricity, was crippled.
Plants producing steel, paper and consumer electronics also were closed. And companies coped with disruptions to communication and transportation networks, as well as the need for their employees to learn the fates of missing family members.
Suzuki Motor /zigman2/quotes/201794956/delayed JP:7269 +0.58% Corp., Mitsubishi Motors /zigman2/quotes/202404490/delayed JP:7211 +0.45% Corp. and Hino Motors /zigman2/quotes/209422954/delayed JP:7205 +3.04% Ltd. said Sunday they would halt production at their domestic plants the following day. Toyota, Honda Motor /zigman2/quotes/207173990/composite HMC -1.52% Co. and Nissan Motor /zigman2/quotes/208298710/delayed JP:7201 -2.14% Co. announced similar plans Saturday. Dozens of auto-parts plants also were affected.
Toyota said it would suspend operation at all 12 of its Japanese plants Monday to give employees and parts suppliers time to check on the safety of their families. Toyota said it would determine Monday when to resume operations.
Mazda Motor /zigman2/quotes/204777714/delayed JP:7261 -3.05% Corp. suspended production at its four plants in western Japan Monday night and all day Tuesday because of parts shortages.
The interruption in parts production threatened to slow output at Japanese-owned auto factories in other parts of the world.