Honda's North American factories will return to near-normal production in August, the automaker said Thursday, much faster than had been expected.
The announcement is another sign of improved parts supplies flowing from Japanese suppliers, whose factories were either damaged by the earthquake and tsunami there, or hit hard by ensuing electric power outages.
Shortages have affected nearly every automaker, but have struck hardest at Honda Motor Co. and rival Toyota Motor Corp.
Last month, Honda cut production to about half the normal level due to parts shortages caused by the March 11 earthquake and tsunami. It warned dealers of model shortages and said full production might not resume until the end of the year.
But Honda said Thursday that the situation in Japan continues to improve, so factories will ramp up to 100 percent production on a plant-by-plant basis — except for those that make the new Civic compact.
"The light at the end of the tunnel is glowing brighter for us, represented by this significant improvement in our production situation," said John Mendel, executive vice president of Honda's American operations.
Toyota earlier this month also said that it would be able to crank up North American production faster than expected, returning to 70 percent of normal levels in June as it rebounds from parts shortages.
The company cut production to about 30 percent of normal in May by idling factories for several days or reducing hours of operation. It also warned dealers to expect shortages of some models well into the summer and said full production may not come until late this year.
Neither Honda nor Toyota laid off workers during the factory down time.
Honda said Thursday that the severity of model shortages this month will not be as bad as expected.
"This will go a long way toward alleviating the shortages at dealerships," said spokesman Ed Miller. "It's very good news for dealers."
The Civic, which is the sixth most popular vehicle in the U.S., is likely to remain in short supply, however.
Honda said the 2012 Civic still lacks critical parts, and production will remain at about half the normal rate until sometime in the fall.
Honda still is short of electrical, rubber and other parts for the car that come from Japanese factories, Miller said.
Demand for the Civic and other small, fuel-efficient cars has been rising throughout the year with gas prices threatening to top $4 per gallon in the U.S.
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