Standard & Poor’s cuts Japanese auto industry outlook image

Standard & Poor’s on Monday said it has lowered its outlook on the ratings of six Japanese automakers and suppliers, on concerns that extended production stoppages could erode their share of key markets.

The debt-rating agency revised its outlook to negative from stable for Toyota Motor Corp., Honda Motor Co., Nissan Motor Co., and three of Toyota’s key suppliers — Aisin Seiki Co. Ltd., Denso Corp. and Toyota Industries.

The impact of last month’s earthquake and tsunami on Japanese carmakers’ production, sales and exports was profound, the automakers reported Monday, with production incurring the steepest declines.

The protracted output disruption threatens Toyota’s status as the world’s biggest car maker, which it could lose to General MotorsCo. It may even fall behind Volkswagen AG, according to Mamoru Kato, an analyst at Tokai Tokyo Research Center.

“Most likely, GM will produce 8 million-plus and Volkswagen will produce about 7 million, so most likely Toyota will be third, GM will be first,” an economic analyst said this morning.

Toyota’s worldwide production fell 29.9 percent to 542,465 vehicles while output at its Daihatsu and Hino subsidiaries was also sharply lower.

S&P however affirmed its ratings on all the companies because it expected the impact of the disaster to be less than that of the 2008 financial crisis.

“Unlike after the Lehman shock, vehicle demand prospects remain solid in North America and emerging markets, and automakers could partially make up for lost production by increasing output in the latter half,” S&P said.