2011 Toyota Yaris five-door liftback

Production issues in Japan continue three weeks after the 9.0 magnitude earthquake and tsunami devastated the island nation. Major Japanese automakers have consistently pushed back plant start-up times and Toyota is no different, with a current forecast of an April 11 or April 14 re-boot. And that's best-case scenario. The automaker said in a statement Tuesday that it was looking into supply issues, adding "depending on vehicle type, there may be a significant impact on our production capabilities."

Automotive News reports that the longest wait time could be for Toyota's Miyagi assembly plant, which makes the Yaris subcompact. Sources tell AN that the plant will likely be down for at least a month, as ruptured gas lines in the facility link to a heavily damaged natural gas plant in the quake-devastated region of Sendai. The automaker is said to be looking at other options to power the otherwise repaired facility. The prolonged shutdown at the Miyagi plant could ultimately affect Toyota's U.S. supply of Yaris models, which only come from that plant.

One factory that has been revitalized is the plant that makes the Prius, Lexus CT 200h and Lexus HS250h. But a source apparently informed AN that a Toyota purchasing executive admits that the facility is only running at half capacity.

Right now, the situation in Japan hasn't had much affect on U.S. vehicle availability, but a prolonged shutdown of supplier plants could be devastating. IHS Global Insight estimates that 30 percent of the world's global auto production could be lost if Japan plants remain closed for six weeks or more.

[Source: Automotive News – sub. req.]