Ford slows manufacturing following Japanese supplier disruptions  Japanese automakers have suffered mightily in the wake of the devastation caused by March's earthquake and tsunami that battered the country. A majority of the nation's automobile manufacturing facilities are located in the northeast part of the country - hardest hit by the natural disasters - and many production plants have had to either close or slow manufacturing. 

This week, U.S. Ford Motor Co. said it had to temporarily idle some of its assembly plants as it works to conserve parts. The Detroit-based automaker relies on Japanese suppliers for important components used in the development of its vehicles and has suffered through supply chain disruptions emanating from the crisis.

Ford's manufacturing plant in Taiwan, which produces the company's Escape, Focus and Mazda 3 models, was closed Monday for the next two weeks. The carmaker also announced this week it shut down a manufacturing plant in South Africa, and another joint-venture facility in the country.

With the announcements, Ford joins a growing number of carmakers that have been forced to slow or altogether stop their production as critical parts from Japan are not arriving on time. Many Japanese factories are still working to go online, but the country's beleaguered infrastructure and rolling electricity blackouts are impeding the process.

Last week, Toyota said its production wouldn't return to full capacity until at least the end of 2011. 
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