Honda’s US unit has denied widespread media reports last week that it was suspending dealer orders for Japanese made cars for May arrival.

“On 17 March, certain US news reports inaccurately suggested that Japan-based production of vehicles intended for sale in the United States would be suspended until May. This is not what we communicated. Honda has announced a suspension of production only through 23 March,” the automaker said in a statement.

“There is no immediate impact on Honda’s operations in North America. More than 80% of Honda and Acura products sold in the US are produced in North America, and the vast majority of automotive parts for Honda automobiles manufactured in North America are sourced in the region.

“Honda’s US and Canadian and Mexico Honda plants are continuing normal output of finished vehicles. In addition, we are continuing to monitor the long-term impact of the events in Japan on Honda auto production in North America because some auto parts are supplied from Japan.

Newswire reports, citing Tokyo-based Honda spokespeople Christina Ra and Gary Robinson, had said Honda had told US Honda and Acura dealers, who typically order vehicles six weeks in advance, of the suspension on 17 March in a memo. The move would affect production of cars that would have been sold in May.

“While we plan to resume automobile production in Japan as quickly as possible, we cannot say with certainty when those production plants will return to their full capacity,” John Mendel, Honda’s US executive vice president, reportedly told dealers in the memo.

Honda builds US-bound Fit [Jazz], Insight, CR-Z, Civic Hybrid, Acura TSX and Acura RLs in Japan plus a small percentage of CR-Vs; the rest of these are made in the US and Mexico.

In a status update, Honda’s US unit confirmed earthquake damage in Japan was widespread in the Tochigi Prefecture area, where its has a number of operations including an R&D centre near the city of Utsunomiya. At that facility Honda confirmed the death of a 43 year old male employee after a wall collapsed in a cafeteria. Another 17 workers were injured in the Tochigi area from collapsing ceilings and other damage during the earthquake (initial reports had put this at 30).

Honda said it had now suspended vehicle production for an additional three days to the end of Wednesday 23 March at its Sayama Plant at Saitama Factory (Sayama, Saitama) and Suzuka Factory (Suzuka, Mie) and also at the Kumamoto Factory (Ozu-machi, Kikuchi-gun, Kumamoto), where motorcycles are produced.

“There is a possibility that we could begin operations partially on some lines at the non-finished unit level before 23 March at three locations: Hamamatsu Factory (Hamamatsu, Shizuoka); Ogawa Plant (Ogawa-machi, Hiki-gun Saitama); and Tochigi Factory (Moka, Tochigi). We are still in the process of determining details about when production can be resumed at these sites,” the automaker said.

Honda added it was cooperating with electricity conservation efforts and rolling blackout measures, prioritizing the relief and recovery of affected areas.

“Our decision to resume production could be affected by the needs of Japanese society as a whole.”

The automaker added it had contacted all Tier 1 suppliers in Japan and was collecting information from them regarding the status of their operations.

Along with other automakers, Honda Motor has also provided earthquake disaster recovery aid – JPY300m (US$3.7m) toward the relief and recovery effort, 1,000 generators (petrol-and home-use gas canister-powered) plus 5,000 gas canisters and will send staff to explain the use of this equipment.

Honda companies in North America will also establish matching gift programmes for workers for donations to the Red Cross, with the automaker matching employee donations on a dollar-for-dollar basis, with no personal or corporate donation limit. Honda has over 29, 000 ‘associates’ in North America alone.

American Honda Motor has also set up a website to accept donations to the Red Cross from its automotive, motorcycle and power equipment dealers who wish to contribute.