Japanese auto companies extend plant shutdowns

WASHINGTON (AP) — Japanese auto companies on Wednesday extended shutdowns of car-assembly plants affected by the country’s devastating earthquake and tsunami, but in a sign of progress, some parts factories in Japan plan to resume production later this week.

Toyota Motor Corp., the world’s biggest automaker, said Wednesday it will extend production halts at its car plants through March 22, affecting about 95,000 vehicles.

Toyota, however, will resume production on Thursday at factories that make replacement parts for vehicles already on the road. And it will restart plants on March 21 that make parts for overseas factories.

The earthquake, tsunami and radiation from damaged nuclear power plants have raised concerns of falling supplies of high-mileage cars made only in Japan. Those models include the Honda Fit and Toyota Yaris and hybrids such as the Toyota Prius.

Among other affected plants:

• Nissan Motor Co. said it was resuming production at two car-assembly factories on Thursday and Friday for as long as its inventory of parts lasts.

• Honda Motor Co. has suspended production at six Japanese plants through the end of the week, along with a research and development center and an engineering office.

• Mazda and Subaru plants will remain closed through March 20. Mitsubishi is running three plants on Wednesday and Thursday, using inventory parts.

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