Japan's leading automakers said that domestic production plummeted in March after the massive quake and tsunami, which shut off parts supplies and led to widespread power shortages.
Toyota, the world's biggest automaker, on Monday said production in Japan plunged 62.7 percent year on year in March, putting it in danger of falling this year from the global top spot it claimed from General Motors in 2008.
Domestic output slumped to 129,491 vehicles, which Kyodo News agency said was the lowest since records began in January 1976.
Toyota's worldwide production fell 29.9 percent to 542,465 vehicles while output at its Daihatsu and Hino subsidiaries was also sharply lower.
The March 11 disasters damaged production facilities and atomic power plants in northeast Japan, triggering the world's worst nuclear crisis since Chernobyl and electricity shortages and supply chain disruptions in Japan and worldwide.
Toyota was forced to temporarily close plants and reduce output domestically and in the United States, European Union, China and Australia, running some facilities at half-capacity or less.
Nissan said production at home fell 52.4 percent year on year in March due to the effects of the quake and the termination of a government subsidy programme for environmentally-friendly vehicles.
Domestic production slid to 47,590 units, in contrast to its global output which in March increased 9.0 percent year on year to 382,704 units. Nissan said the figure was a record for the month.
The domestic picture was similar at Honda Motor, which reported output plunged 62.9 percent year on year in March while worldwide total production was down 19.2 percent at 282,254 units.
For the fiscal year to the end of March 2011, worldwide production was up 8.2 percent at 3,575,362 units compared with the previous year, Honda said.
Also on Monday, Mazda announced a 53.6 percent drop in domestic production year on year in March, with global production down 33.8 percent.
Mitsubishi Motor said its Japan production in March fell 25.7 percent to 49,434, while global production slipped 10.9 percent to 106,229.
"The decline in output in Japan was due to restricted operation of the company's factories after the Great East Japan Earthquake," the company said.
Many key component manufacturers are based in the northeast and the shortage of parts has also hit vehicle production overseas.
With auto production stalled, demand for second-hand cars has soared in the disaster-ravaged northeast, Jiji news agency reported.
In hardest-hit Miyagi prefecture, about 150,000 vehicles, or 10 percent of those in the area, were damaged or destroyed, leading to a boom in second-hand sales.
Prices have surged by 100,000-150,000 yen ($1,200-$1,800) for many models, a dealer told Jiji following the weekly used-car auction in the town of Murata.