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Carmakers, Electronics Companies Trim Production in Japan - 2001-11-02

Carmakers and electronics companies in Japan are trimming production and staffing in the face of a worsening downturn.

Japanese carmaker Mazda Motors is cutting production because of slowing demand for cars in the United States. The company says it will idle factories every Friday this month, reducing output by 16 percent.

Mazda is the first Japanese carmaker to make such a move in the wake of the terrorist assaults, which damaged U.S. consumer confidence. Mazda says that other factors, such as increasing competition and problems with some car models also are behind the decision.

Mazda rival Nissan has unveiled a long-awaited expansion of its ties with Renault. It will buy a 15 percent stake in Renault while the French carmaker will raise its holding in Nissan to 44 percent from the 37 percent it already owns. The two companies will establish a joint unit to oversee cooperation in a number of areas including the development of engines and transmissions. They also will exchange some of their top executives.

Japan's electronics sector is caught in a severe downturn as global demand for its wares worsens. Earnings figures released Tuesday show that Japan's five major electronics companies posted losses in the first half of the fiscal year. Company executives say the September 11 attacks hurt the industry.

In response to steep losses, Matsushita Electric will cut 8,000 jobs in the next five months through an early retirement program. The company posted a net loss of $570 million in the first half of the year.

Kunio Kakayama is Matsushita's president. "Sales of cellular phones and related devices have fallen and sales of home appliances are continuing to slide as well," Kakayama said.

Matsushita rival Hitachi lost nearly $600 million in the six months to September. Yoshiki Yagi is Hitachi's executive vice president. "We will have to reduce our workforce by another 1,200 employees due to the slowdown in demand for semiconductors. The possibility of more job losses remains.

Sony, NEC and Fujitsu, the other big names in Japan's export-oriented technology sector, also reported weak earnings.