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Honda, Mazda set limited output

Honda Motor Co. and Mazda Motor Corp. said Thursday that they will resume limited production at several Japanese factories in April but that full production depends on the availability of parts.

The moves are another sign that the Japanese auto industry is starting to come back from the devastating March 11 earthquake and tsunami, but industry analysts say it may take until summer before factories are back at full output.

Japan is the second-largest supplier of cars in the world, as well as a major parts producer. The impact of the earthquake already is causing production cuts in the U.S. and other countries. Few plants in Japan were seriously damaged by the quake, but water and electricity supplies have been hampered.

Scotia Economics Senior Economist Carlos Gomes said assembly plant shutdowns in Japan have cut auto production by about 37,000 vehicles per day. Through Thursday, he estimated that production losses topped 500,000.

Honda said Thursday that it will restart the Sayama Plant and Suzuka Factory on April 11, but they will run at about half the normal rate. Honda also will start production and shipment of component parts for regions outside Japan on Monday, it said in a statement.

When the two plants come back on line, all of Honda's Japanese auto production plants will be back in operation. Both plants had been shut down since the earthquake hit.

Mazda said Thursday it will start making cars at the Hiroshima and Hofu plants Monday, but only on a limited basis due to parts availability. A decision on resuming full-scale production of parts and vehicles will come later. Mazda suspended production at the plants March 14 due to a parts shortage.

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