UPDATE 3-Toyota to restart output at one more Japan plant

* Toyota unit Central Motor to produce 2 models from Monday

* No restart of most Japan plants next week: Toyota

* Moody’s puts Toyota on review for possible downgrade

* Toyota: lost production of 260,000 units through this week

(Updates with plans to restart output of two more models)

By Chang-Ran Kim, Asia autos correspondent

TOKYO, April 6 (Reuters) – Toyota Motor Corp will
begin making two more car models on April 11, taking another
small step towards normalising operations after a massive
earthquake in Japan disrupted its supply chain and forced most
of its factories to halt work.

But the world’s largest automaker denied a report that most
of its idled domestic factories would restart next week and has
also warned that supply disruptions were likely to interrupt
vehicle assembly at one or more of its North American factories
at some point. [ID:nN05120553] .

Analysts expect a full recovery of vehicle production at
Japanese automakers to take at least a few months. Production
could be disrupted again in the peak power consumption season in
the summer after a post-quake tsunami crippled a nuclear power
plant of Japan’s biggest utility, Tokyo Electric Power .

Toyota will have lost potential output of 260,000 vehicles
as of April 8 — equivalent to 8.4 percent of initial domestic
production plans for this year — over an unprecedented 20-day
suspension at most factories since March 14. Toyota and Lexus
cars are built at 18 group-wide factories in Japan.

It said on Wednesday it would begin producing the
Corolla Axio and Raum models at a plant in Sagamihara, south of
Tokyo, run by subsidiary Central Motor.

Central Motor was scheduled to close that factory at the end
of March and transfer production to a new site in Miyagi
prefecture that had been inaugurated less than a month before
being hit by the magnitude 9.0-earthquake on March 11.
[ID:nTOE71E023]

Toyota restarted limited production of three hybrid models,
the Prius, Lexus HS250h and Lexus CT200h, on March 28 at the
Tsutsumi factory in central Japan and a subsidiary’s plant in
Kyushu, southern Japan.

Before the news, Toyota shares ended up 0.2 percent at 3,265
yen, erasing losses during most of the session.

The disruptions have prompted Moody’s
Investors Service to say it may cut Toyota’s
c redit rating . It cited Toyota’s
relatively high dependence on the Japanese market, which
could be hit by weak consumer sentiment, in placing the Aa2
long-term senior unsecured and issuer ratings under review.

While Toyota’s factories have not suffered major damage, the
disaster has disrupted shipments of key components and “normal
production cannot be expected for many months”, Moody’s said in
a statement. It said a rating cut of multiple notches was
unlikely, given the company’s strong balance sheet.

Among other major Japanese automakers, Honda Motor Co
has said it aims to restart production at all domestic
plants next Monday at a rate of about half its original plans.

Nissan Motor Co plans to resume normal production
with parts procured from suppliers, rather than using inventory,
from mid-April at limited operation levels.

Damage to facilities at suppliers ranging from Japanese chip
maker Renesas Electronics Corp to German chemical
company Merck KGaA has affected production at a wide
range of automakers including General Motors Co and PSA
Peugeot Citroen .

(Additional reporting by Nathan Layne in Tokyo and Kavyanjali
Kaushik in Bangalore; Editing by Michael Watson)

UPDATE 3-Toyota to restart output at one more Japan plant