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Toyota SA has resumed some operations at its Prospecton plant near Durban, which had been closed after suffering extensive damage in the recent KwaZulu-Natal floods.

It has resumed operations of its export line of catalytic converters and will reopen the Hino assembly line in the next few days. However, it will take some time for the main lines — Hilux, Fortuner, HiAce, Corolla Cross and Corolla Quest — to reopen.

The company is likely to lose about 45,000 units in production, but has been encouraged by a series of small gains in its recovery process, it says.

CEO and president Andrew Kirby says the company is implementing a careful and systematic phased plan to return the facility to working condition.

“This has been a tremendous setback for the company, but we have extensive insurance coverage. We are also fortunate that our parent company Toyota Motor Corporation is supporting with all the cashflow challenges we are likely to encounter,” Kirby said.

“We’ve been through the process of cleaning, drying and flushing. And now we are checking our equipment — repairing, powering up the control panels and ordering replacement parts where necessary. It’s not easy to predict when we will be able to restart,” he added.

Toyota group president Akio Toyoda has sent about 60 specialists and engineers from Japan to support the recovery of the plant.

The facility’s flood-protection measures were effective up to a point and will be reinstated and enhanced, Toyota SA said, adding that  it’s working closely with the City of eThekwini to address the infrastructure shortfalls to prevent a similar disaster.

Most Toyota SA employees fall under the National Bargaining Forum and have 50% of wages paid when there is no work. However, as the case during the Covid-19 lockdown, the company will try to improve employee earnings, bringing them in on a rotational basis to assist in cleanup and restoration activities.

It has requested financial institutions with whom employees have loans for a three-month payment holiday and worked with local NGOs to use Toyota SA employees for community support and cleanup operations. Employees who volunteer for such activities will be paid by Toyota SA.

All the vehicles damaged at the plant will be scrapped so that no potentially compromised Toyotas make it into the retail chain. About 4,596 units on site were undamaged and can be sold, the company said.

No employees will lose their jobs and they will receive support from the company throughout the process.  

Toyota SA senior vice-president of sales and marketing Leon Theron said customers remain a priority: “We are communicating with customers whose vehicle deliveries have been affected by the floods and we appreciate their patience.

“With regards to CBUs (completely built-up models), it’s business as usual.  We have been able to negotiate additional supplies despite global shortages. So we will have extra units to compensate for the temporary lack of availability on locally built models.”

TimesLIVE

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