The 8.9-magnitude earthquake and subsequent tsunami that hit Japan on Friday has impacted the nation’s automotive manufacturers to various degrees, with Honda the worst hit.

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The damage was widespread in the Tochigi area (around 100km north of Tokyo), where Honda has a number of operations.

Honda Motor Co. has confirmed the death of a 43-year-old research and development associate at the Tochigi R&D Centre, who was crushed by a collapsing cafeteria wall.

Honda confirmed in a statement that more than 30 Honda employees in Tochigi were injured as a result of collapsing ceilings and other damage.

“Honda would like to express its sincere condolences to the family of the associate who died as a result of this earthquake. Our thoughts and prayers are with the people of Japan and all those injured or displaced by this tragedy.”

Some Honda plants have closed in Japan, and will remain closed for at least today, including:

  • The Tochigi engine, transmission and chassis parts plant
  • Two Saitama plants: The Sayama plant, which produces CR-V, Accord, US Fit, Acura RL and TSX, as well as the Ogawa Plant, which produces engines
  • The Hamamatsu transmission plant
  • The Suzuka factory, which produces Japanese Fit, Civic, Civic Hybrid, Insight and Honda CR-Z (all hybrid models). It operated on Friday, but will not be in production today
“Honda is assessing the resumption of operations and the long-term impact to its operations from the Japan earthquake,” it said in a statement.

Honda Australia has been contacted for comment about any potential impact on delivery times for Australian-bound vehicles.

Toyota Australia’s Mike Breen said it was too early to know if there would be any impact on the delivery times of Australian-bound Toyota and Lexus vehicles.

Mr Breen said production had been suspended at all Toyota supplier and assembly facilities as of today.

Toyota Motor Corp. confirmed over the weekend that its current priority was to ensure the safety and security of Toyota team members in the immediately affected regions.

“We can confirm that all Toyota team members at Toyota Motor Tohoku, Central Motor Corporation Miyagi, and Kanto Auto Works Iwate are safe and in no immediate danger. Toyota Motor Corporation is also currently gathering information to confirm the safety and well being of their family members.“In the coming days, we will begin assessing the damages to our manufacturing facilities, suppliers and dealers caused by the earthquake and ensuing tsunami.

Toyota Motor Corporation has pledged to donate 300 million yen ($3.64 million) to the relief efforts on behalf of its global operations.

“The thoughts and prayers of everyone at Toyota in Europe are with the victims and their families, as well as the people of Japan, following this unprecedented natural disaster.”

Mitsubishi Motors Australia’s Lenore Fletcher said the latest news from Mitsubishi Motors Corp. in Japan was that none of its employees had been harmed on Friday.

Ms Fletcher said there were many senior people at Mitsubishi Australia with close contacts and friends in Japan and they had been emailing and calling throughout the weekend.

She said one Mitsubishi Australia employee was in Japan on Friday when the earthquake and tsunami hit. He was not injured and has since returned to Australia.

The majority of Mitsubishi’s plants are to the west and southwest of Tokyo and are understood to be unharmed. The supplier base is also believed to be unaffected but the condition of some local dealerships is still unknown.

Mitsubishi Australia’s vehicles are shipped from the Nagoya port, and although it is not believed to be affected, its condition has not been officially confirmed.

The latest reports from the US suggest MMC will halt production at its three assembly plants at least for today.

Nissan suspended operations at its Japanese plants over the weekend, but it escaped the disasters relatively unharmed.

“At this time, we are currently confirming the safety of all Nissan employees and continue to assess the situation at our Japanese facilities, but we do not believe our operations have been significantly affected,” Nissan said in a statement.“Nissan’s global headquarters building in Yokohama was not significantly affected, is safe and operational. So far, there are no reports of employee casualties and employee safety precautions are underway at all locations.”

Mazda’s manufacturing and headquarters are located in Hiroshima, which is around 1000km southwest of the worst affected area. Although the earthquake was felt there, no damage has been reported. A Mazda spokesman said nobody was injured and confirmed shifts would proceed as planned.

“Although we speculate there will be some damage to dealerships north of Tokyo, Mazda facilities and people, so far as we know at this moment, are safe,” said Mazda Motor Europe President and CEO, Jeff Guyton.“Our thoughts go out to everyone in the affected areas and we hope that help comes quickly and the damage is limited.”

Suzuki’s Japanese operations and head office – located around 640km south of the epicentre – were also unaffected by the earthquake.

“We are currently gathering information about any additional effects to Suzuki’s operations, including port distribution, plant and dealership operations, as well as our vendors and suppliers located in the damaged areas.“Due to widespread power outages communication is challenging, but we will continue to report information as it is received.”

Subaru’s vehicle manufacturer, Fuji Heavy Industries, also closed five factories over the weekend.