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Japan shows signs of auto dependency syndrome

Toyota Motor East Japan's plant in Ohira, Miyagi Prefecture

TOKYO -- The auto industry is becoming increasingly important to Japan's economy, reaching 20% of the total value of manufacturing shipments for the first time in 2015. That underscores the industry's competitiveness, but the economy's growing dependence on cars also poses risks.

Auto component maker Aisin Seiki's plant in Kumamoto, in southwestern Japan, took a hit from the earthquakes that struck the prefecture in April. Toyota Motor temporarily shut down its 26 production lines nationwide. It took the automaker three weeks to resume full production. The effects were minimized by utilizing supply chains overseas, but the quakes will further deflate Japan's sagging economy.

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