Toyota fires up quake-hit Japanese car factories

Toyota was producing cars at all of its Japanese factories yesterday for the first time since the devastating earthquake and tsunami rocked the country last month.

But the plants will run at only half-capacity for the foreseeable future because of a shortage of parts produced by other quake-hit Japanese suppliers, the world's biggest car maker said.

At Toyota's Miyagi factory, which is in one of the worst-affected regions of Japan, staff held a minute's silence before starting work.

Car plants across the world have faced major parts shortages in the aftermath of the disaster, which caused widespread devastation and restrictions to power supplies.

Toyota is stopping production at its UK factories at Burnaston and Deeside for two weeks. The other two big Japanese car-makers are also slowing output in Britain, with Honda running at half-rate in Swindon for two weeks and Nissan scheduling three days of downtime at its Sunderland factory.

Output has also been affected across the US and other parts of Europe as supply chains starved of Japanese components – particularly a black pigment called Xirallic – have forced production cuts.