Months of heavy rain and subsequent flooding are causing huge problems for Japanese companies that have made Thailand their manufacturing and export base in Southeast Asia.
Japanese automakers as well as electrical equipment and food producers have halted production at their Thai plants and fear that their sales plans will be affected.
Flooding in an industrial complex in Ayutthaya province has been so bad that Honda Motor Co. on Oct. 8 evacuated workers of its plant there, which manufactures about 240,000 vehicles a year, mainly compacts. It had just begun producing a new compact model aimed at the Asian market this spring.
Honda officials also said they were also forced to stop operations at motorcycle and power generator plants in Bangkok on Oct. 11 to proceed with work to prevent flooding.
The officials said they have no idea when operations can resume.
Likewise, Nikon Corp.'s SLR camera plant in Ayutthaya stopped production on Oct. 6 and evacuated its workers.
"We do not know the extent of damage or what effect it will have on future operations," a company official said.
According to officials of the Japan External Trade Organization (JETRO), rivers have flooded in various parts of Thailand ever since heavy rains started in mid-July.
In early October, two different industrial complexes in Ayutthaya, home to the manufacturing bases of 180 Japanese companies, were flooded, halting work at many parts manufacturers.
Even companies far from the flooded areas have had to halt production because their supply chain has been cut off.
Toyota Motor Corp. stopped production at all three Thai plants from Oct. 10. Mazda Motor Corp. decided to suspend operations on Oct. 11 and 12.
Isuzu Motors Ltd. stopped operations from the evening of Oct. 11, while Nissan Motor Co. suspended production of some models.
Although Mitsubishi Motors Corp. plans to continue manufacturing until Oct. 12, no decision had been made beyond that date.
Thailand is Southeast Asia's largest automobile market, and 1.64 million vehicles were manufactured in the country in 2010, according to JETRO officials.
Because automakers export from Thailand to Southeast Asia, Australia, the Middle East and Europe, the production stoppage could affect their sales.
Nissan Motor manufactures the March in Thailand and exports the compact car to Japan. Company officials said the flooding so far has not had an impact on the model's exports.
Other companies with production bases in the flooded regions have been affected.
A Hitachi Ltd. group company manufacturing refrigerator parts has also stopped production from Oct. 7.
Canon Inc. runs an inkjet printer plant in the region, but operations were suspended from the afternoon of Oct. 6 until Oct. 12.
TDK Corp. stopped work from Oct. 9 at a plant manufacturing data recording tape.
Showa Denko KK and Fujikura Ltd. have suspended production of automobile and mobile phone parts in Thailand.
A plant where Ajinomoto Co. produces canned coffee drinks was flooded. Yakult Honsha Co. also suspended production after the area near a plant was inundated.
The region that has been flooded is gradually expanding as Thailand remains in the middle of its rainy season.
According to Thai government officials, about 2.7 million people have been affected by the flooding in 27 provinces, with 281 fatalities.
A flood watch has been issued for Bangkok this weekend, and work was continuing to pile up sandbags to prevent flooding of the capital.
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