By Naomi Tajitsu
TOKYO (Reuters) - Toyota Motor Corp said on Saturday it may halt production at its domestic plants early next month due to a steel shortage, following an explosion at a steel plant operated by one of its affiliates.
The blast an Aichi Steel plant has curbed production of steel parts, which may impact output at the world's best-selling automaker which produces around 40 percent of its global output in Japan.
"At the moment, there is enough supply inventory to keep our domestic plants running until Feb. 6," a Toyota spokesman said, adding that overtime and weekend shifts for next week had been canceled.
"After that, we will be monitoring our supply situation on a day-by-day basis and decide accordingly."
Aichi Steel said that the Jan. 8 explosion at its Chita plant in central Japan dented production of special steel parts. It added that it aimed to resume operations in March.
Toyota, whose vehicle stable includes the Toyota and Lexus brands, as well as Daihatsu Motor Co minivehicles and Hino Motors trucks, produced 4.0 million vehicles in Japan in 2015, roughly 46 percent of which were exported.
A stoppage in production may impact Toyota's plans to produce 4.13 million vehicles in the country this year, including its new Prius gasoline hybrid, which was launched in the United States this month and is produced solely in Japan.
Toyota plans to build 10.2 million vehicles worldwide this year, after posting worldwide sales of 10.15 million in 2015, beating out Volkswagen and other automakers to keep its title as the world's largest-selling carmaker.
Toyota, which manufactures around 14,000 vehicles a day in Japan, would not comment on which components were supplied by steel made at the affected plant.
(Reporting by Osamu Tsukimori and Naomi Tajitsu; Editing by Nick Macfie)