TOKYO — Toyota's car production in Japan plummeted a staggering 62.7 percent in March due to a parts supply crunch after the earthquake and tsunami.
Toyota Motor Corp., the world's top-selling automaker last year, said Monday its domestic production in March was 129,491 vehicles — the lowest since 1976 when Toyota began maintaining production figures.
The magnitude-9.0 earthquake and tsunami on March 11 destroyed many factories in northeastern Japan, causing severe parts shortages for Toyota and other automakers.
Given Toyota's production woes after the tsunami, General Motors Co. is likely to reclaim the title of world's largest automaker that it lost in 2008. Toyota sold 8.42 million vehicles last year, just keeping its lead over a resurgent General Motors Co., which sold 8.39 million, thanks to booming sales in China.
The threat of production disruptions prompted the Standard & Poor's ratings service to cut its outlook on Toyota, Honda Motor Co., Nissan Motor Co., Aisin Seiki Co. Ltd., Denso Corp. and Toyota Industries Corp.
Toyota said in December that its global production would total 7.7 million vehicles in 2011. But Tokai-Tokyo Securities analyst Mamoru Kato said that number would fall to around 6 million due to disrupted production.
Toyota's global production in March dropped 29.9 percent, to 542,465 vehicles, from a year ago, while its sales in Japan tumbled 45 percent for the month.
"The impact of the tsunami disaster on Toyota is extremely severe," said Kato. "Since Toyota depends so much on domestic parts suppliers, any major disruptions in supply chains could cripple its output."
Honda said its domestic production in March plunged 62.9 percent, to 34,754 vehicles, with worldwide production falling 19.2 percent, to 282,254 vehicles. Nissan said its production in Japan dropped 52.4 percent, to 47,590 vehicles.
Also Monday, Ford Motor Co. said it idled three factories in Asia and South Africa due to parts troubles from the earthquake.
The parts supply crunch forced Toyota to suspend manufacturing in Japan for several weeks, resulting in a production loss of 260,000 cars. Toyota said Monday it is still struggling to secure around 150 types of auto parts.
Toyota executives in Brazil and Argentina say they're cutting production at two assembly plants for three days because they haven't gotten enough parts from Japan.