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The Toyota plant near Durban remains closed after suffering extensive water damage. Picture: SUPPLIED
The Toyota plant near Durban remains closed after suffering extensive water damage. Picture: SUPPLIED

Customers who have ordered Toyotas will have to wait longer as the vehicle maker’s flood-damaged Prospecton factory near Durban remains closed.

Toyota South Africa Motors (TSAM) could not confirm when the plant will be up and running again after it was affected by the devastating floods that hit KwaZulu-Natal earlier this month.

The plant was extensively damaged and Toyota has reportedly had to scrap thousands of water-damaged vehicles, while 500 units had passed inspection and would be retailed. Toyota is the country’s automotive market leader and assembles the Corolla Cross, Quest, Hilux, Fortuner and Sesfikile at the Prospecton plant.

Toyota is implementing a “systematic and meticulous phased plan” to return the plant to working condition. This approach is designed to ensure a safe start-up, without any potential secondary issues, it said .

“Cleanup operations are progressing at a pace in different areas — the first three phases include the establishment of temporary utilities at the plant, cleaning up and then powering up the machinery,” said a Toyota spokesperson.

“Once the trial power-up stage is reached, certain areas of the facility will then be able to move to phase four, which involves an accurate assessment and equipment check.”

According to TSAM president and CEO Andrew Kirby, “it is only once we commence with this phase that we will be able to adequately judge the realistic lead time to resume production.”

“As you can imagine, there will be a mountain of repairs to be made along with many parts that will need to be ordered — it would therefore be irresponsible of us to call a start-up date until we have the full picture. We anticipate firming up dates within the next week,” he said.

Kirby expressed gratitude for the support received from its dealers and suppliers, local and national government, as well as its staff. Parent company Toyota Motor Corporation (TMC) was singled out for its swift response to this emergency.

“TSAM’s recovery is currently the number-one priority for TMC as demonstrated by more than 50 maintenance and engineering experts on site, with more arriving next week.”

On the sales front, TSAM senior vice-president Leon Theron confirmed that while delivery of locallybuilt models will be impacted in the short term, plans have been put into place to prioritise existing orders.

“We really appreciate the patience exhibited by our customers. Hilux, Fortuner, Corolla Cross and Quest orders are going to take little longer, but please be assured that they will be filled the moment our new supply kicks in,” he said.

“As far as imported models go, it’s business as usual — in fact, we have requested extra units to compensate for the temporary lack of availability of locallybuilt models.”

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