Japanese auto giant Toyota Motor Corp will halve domestic production for three months, reports said on Saturday, and will temporarily suspend plant operations to cope with plummeting demand.
Toyota will produce roughly 9,000 units per day in Japan from February through April, the lowest level in three decades and lower than what is considered to be an efficient number in terms of production and profitability, the Asahi Shimbun newspaper and Kyodo News said.
The company will also stop operations at 11 of its 12 domestic factories for three days this month, on Saturday and also on January 24 and January 30, in line with previously announced plans.
In February and March, the carmaker will suspend operations at all 12 factories for 11 days.
The company informed selected suppliers of its new production plan, the Mainichi Shimbun said in its evening edition.
The Asahi said that Toyota may be considering further layoffs, which would potentially have a knock-on effect on parts suppliers who will also be forced to scale down production.
The move underscores the rapidly deteriorating fortunes of Japan's auto giants, which have racked up bumper profits in recent years and invested heavily to expand their production facilities overseas.
Japan's top automaker last month forecast its first-ever annual operating loss, blaming "an unprecedented crisis" in the global auto industry.
Toyota's domestic output for 2008 averaged about 20,000 units per day, but the deterioration of global auto demand has forced the company to scale down or temporarily close factories, Kyodo said.
Toyota officials could not be reached for comment.
The company, which vies with troubled US firm General Motors for the crown of the world's largest automaker, has already moved to reduce production at its domestic, US, Canadian and French factories.
It had previously announced plans to lay off 3,000 temporary workers in Japan, where it builds cars for both domestic and overseas markets.
The reports came a day after number-two Japanese automaker Honda announced a plan to eliminate more than 3,000 jobs and to further cut production and Subaru-maker Fuji Heavy warned of its first annual loss in 15 years.
Yamaha Motors also said it would suspend production at 11 domestic plants for up to 10 days, while reports said Nissan planned to transfer production of subcompact cars from Japan to Thailand to reduce costs.
Japanese makers are in better health than the Big Three US automakers, which have been forced to seek financial lifelines from the US government to stave off bankruptcy.
Toyota had enjoyed hefty profits in recent years fuelled by demand overseas, particularly in the United States, for its eco-friendly hybrid cars.
But demand has fallen sharply in Western markets with a credit crunch and rising unemployment levels deterring potential car buyers.
The Japanese auto market has been in a chronic slump, forcing automakers to rely on overseas sales for their growth.