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Toyota SA makes mitigation plans in light of KZN disaster

THE Toyota Prospecton Plant in Durban has suffered damages after it was flooded during the recent inclement weather conditions that resulted in heavy rains and flooding in KwaZulu-Natal. | Supplied.

THE Toyota Prospecton Plant in Durban has suffered damages after it was flooded during the recent inclement weather conditions that resulted in heavy rains and flooding in KwaZulu-Natal. | Supplied.

Published Apr 21, 2022

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TOYOTO Motors South Africa (TMSA) has warned that it will increase its import supply of mostly locally manufactured vehicles for the next three months following the temporary suspension of operations due to flooding in KwaZulu-Natal (KZN).

Toyota’s manufacturing plant in Prospecton, south of Durban, was flooded in the heavy downpour that battered parts of KZN last week, prompting the car maker to halt operations.

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The floods left much of the plant submerged in water with hundreds of cars now having to be damaged and scrapped, even though 500 passed inspection and will be retailed.

In a statement, Toyota SA announced it has suspended activities at its flood-damaged manufacturing plant while an assessment and clean-up operations takes place.

Leon Theron , TMSA senior vice-president of sales and marketing, said this would be extended when the production facility entered the reparation phase.

Theron said customers whose vehicles were destroyed would be prioritised.

“This will be easier to facilitate with imported CBU (completely built-up) vehicles as these are sourced from other plants,” Theron said.

“Of course, there is a pipeline for all imported vehicles, but we will try to increase this supply in order to make up for the units lost.

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“Locally-produced models, such as the Hilux, are more of a challenge and we will contact customers to inform them of the delays in production.”

The Prospecton plant manufactures Toyota Hilux, Fortuner, Corolla Cross and Corolla Quest models, and employs 7 200 workers.

At least 10 198 light commercial vehicles were either built or assembled at the plant in March.

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Toyota has been riding a monstrous sales wave in the past three months, recording retail figures of 12 480, 13 458 and 15 008 in January, February and March, respectively.

This also means that TSAM currently enjoys an average market share of 30 percent after having posted 30.2 percent, 30.4 percent and 29.7 percent in the past three months of 2022.

At least 70 percent of the vehicles sold by Toyota SA in March were either produced or assembled locally at the Prospecton plant, including the Hilux, Corolla Cross, Hiace Ses’fikile and Fortuner.

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The Hilux remains South Africa’s favourite vehicle with a sales total of 4 561, while the newly launched Corolla Cross was a top seller in the passenger segment with 2 384 units sold.

Following floods in KZN in 2017, Toyota SA put numerous upgrades in place to mitigate future occurrences.

These included the installation of pumps and piping within the plant to disperse water as well as maintaining water-drainage channels surrounding the facility.

However, Theron said these countermeasures were not enough to cope with the floods after the banks of the Umlazi River broke last week.

The damage caused to the plant has not yet been quantified, though Toyota SA said a more accurate forecast on the resumption of production would be provided once assessments were completed.

“These countermeasures worked successfully at keeping the floodwaters at bay, but were unfortunately no match for the mass of water that breached the facility when the banks of the Umlazi River broke.”

Last week, the Motor Industry Staff Association (MISA) said the disaster at Toyota SA could not have struck the motor retail industry at a worse time.

“The motor retail industry can’t afford more retrenchments,” said Martlé Keyter, MISA chief executive.

“MISA’s more than 53 000 members are dependent on motor vehicle- and component sales, vehicle services and repair work.”

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