Photo/IllutrationNational Road No. 2, which leads to Mazda Motor Corp.’s Hiroshima Plant, collapsed in Hiroshima’s Aki Ward due to torrential rain. (Yuki Kubota)

  • Photo/Illustraion

HIROSHIMA--Mazda Motor Corp. suspended operations of two key plants in Hiroshima and neighboring Yamaguchi prefectures following torrential rains in western Japan.

Mazda, which is based in Fuchu, Hiroshima Prefecture, said subcontractors had been unable to supply auto parts because the deluge triggered landslides as well as expressway and road closures.

Some of those companies sustained damage in the flooding.

Mazda said the closures could be prolonged. They concern the Hiroshima Plant, which spans Fuchu town and Hiroshima city and spreads around Hiroshima Bay, and one in Hofu, Yamaguchi Prefecture.

As of 9 a.m. on July 10, roads around the Hiroshima Plant were jammed with cars and trucks. It took two hours for those vehicles to cross a 2-kilometer-long bridge near the plant.

A nearby river burst its banks shortly before noon, unleashing muddy water in residential areas around the plant.

National Road No. 2 leading to a suburb where many of Mazda’s subcontractors are located is out of action due to land collapse.

The Hiroshima Plant manufactures Mazda’s flagship models, including the CX-5 and CX-3 sports utility vehicles (SUVs).

The Hofu Plant produces the compact Demio and other models.

In fiscal 2017, the two facilities accounted for about 60 percent of Mazda’s worldwide production of 1.62 million units. Many of the cars produced in the two plants are exported to North America.

Leading car makers, including Mazda, are trying to reduce stocks of auto parts to stop costs rising.

But when parts are not available, the plants have to close.

“We still don't know when we will be able to procure the auto parts we need,” a Mazda representative said.

Some subcontractors are also facing difficulties getting back on their feet.

At an interior decorating parts maker in Higashi-Hiroshima, many employees are unable to reach their workplaces because roads are closed to traffic.

“Most of our company’s employees usually drive to work, so there's nothing we can do about it," said an executive of the firm.

In the case of an auto parts maker in Kure, also in Hiroshima Prefecture, a road near its factory was rendered impassable because it is caked with earth, sand and other flood debris.

Its subcontractor, which produces materials for the parts, suffered damage from the torrential rain.

“We can’t predict when we will be able to resume operations,” said an executive of the auto parts maker.

At present, there is no shortage of Mazda cars at its dealerships.

However, an executive of a dealer in the Kansai region said, “We are opening as usual. But supplies could be delayed.”

(This article was written by Yuki Kubota and Kohei Kondo.)