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Toyota's Japanese Production Drops Nearly 63 Percent in March

Will GM become top automaker in 2011?
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Toyota's Japanese production levels dropped 62.7 percent last month in the wake of Japan's devastating 9.0 earthquake and tsunami on March 11, which destroyed factories in northeastern Japan and caused a shortage in automotive parts.

The automaker says it expects to ramp up auto production as early as July and as soon as August in North America, with all models back to normal production levels by November or December of this year. (The one-month time difference reflects the time required to ship parts from Japan to overseas manufacturing plants.)

The slowdown in production has led to widely-held speculation that Toyota will likely lose its place as the top global automotive producer this year to General Motors. In 2010 Toyota sold 8.42 million units while GM sold 8.39 million.

At a press conference in Japan, Toyota's president Akio Toyoda said the company's manufacturing plants in Japan are currently working at 50 percent of capacity because of the lack of parts; in the U.S. factories are working at only 30 percent of capacity.

Last week, the car company said it is trying to minimize the impact of those reduced production levels on employment. Toyota said there are no plans for layoffs in North America.