JPN Toyota to delay restart of China plants


Toyota Motor Corp. said Friday it will further delay the restart of its China operations because of the spreading coronavirus outbreak that began in Wuhan.

The closures at Toyota’s four auto plants in Tianjin, Chengdu, Changchun and Guangzhou are expected to be extended until sometime after Feb. 17. The decision reflects local logistics and parts-procurement conditions, a Toyota spokeswoman said.

The auto giant had initially planned to restart the plants early this month after the Lunar New Year holiday, but decided in late January to keep the suspension in place until at least Monday in light of the virus outbreak.

Toyota, however, will make preparations next week to resume work at the plants.

“We will make appropriate decisions after consulting with local joint venture partners,” the spokeswoman said.

Using the four factories, Toyota produced about 1.4 million vehicles for the Chinese market in 2019, up 6.6 percent from the previous year. Sales there reached 1.62 million units, surpassing the figure in Japan for the first time.

Rival Honda Motor Co. said it plans to partially resume operations at its car factories in Wuhan, the epicenter of the epidemic, starting next Friday.
Honda said it hopes to resume Wuhan production from the week beginning on Feb. 17 after modifying lines next Friday, ensuring the safety of workers and securing auto parts. Japan’s second-largest automaker by volume is also planning to restart operations at its Guangzhou factories starting Monday.

At its Wuhan plants, Honda produced about 750,000 units last year mainly for the Chinese market.

“We want to resume production in China as soon as possible,” Honda Executive Vice President Seiji Kuraishi told reporters in Tokyo.

Separately, Suzuki Motor Corp. said it will monitor the situation in China to see if its motorcycle production bases there can really resume business. It is also considering procuring car parts from other countries.

“We have begun considering alternative suppliers (of vehicle parts),” Managing Officer Masahiko Nagao told reporters. “We are studying whether we can (make parts) outside China.”

The Chinese government encouraged companies to let employees resume work starting Monday, except for Wuhan, the capital of Hubei province and a major hub for parts production and vehicle shipments.

However, a growing number of companies are bracing for the uncertainty over their prospects in light of potential disruptions to their supply chains and logistics.

Similarly, many workers who traveled during the Lunar New Year holidays could face limitations on their mobility amid efforts to stop the virus from spreading.

The number of people infected in China has topped 31,000, with 636 confirmed deaths, the Chinese government said Friday.