Locally-built Toyotas are trickling back into dealerships after vehicle production started ramping up at Toyota’s factory in Prospecton near Durban.
It is not known how long it will take to clear the large backlog, but the water-damaged plant is coming back on stream after being shut down since April 12 after the flooding that afflicted the province. The cost of the damage and lost production is still being calculated, but Toyota lost production of around 80,000 vehicles and had to scrap about 4,000 already built units that were too badly damaged.
The shutdown caused long waiting lists for popular locally-produced models such as the Corolla Cross, Corolla Quest, Fortuner, Hilux and Hiace, but Andrew Kirby, president and CEO of Toyota SA Motors (TSAM), expects the factory to be fully operational again by September.
Speaking at the opening of Toyota SA’s newly expanded parts warehouse in Boksburg last week , Kirby said all the Prospecton production lines were up and running albeit at reduced capacity. Though every component was repaired and tested after damage from the clay-like mud that flooded the factory, the slow ramp up made provision for possible equipment failures over time.
Earlier, the plant had restarted its Hino truck production and resumed operations of its export line of catalytic converters after around 150 technical experts and engineers were brought from Japan to help with repairs.
About 50% of the Prospecton plant’s production is exported to 74 countries, including all of Western Europe, the rest of Sub-Saharan Africa and Central America.
Locally, the supply shortage caused the prices of popular models such as the Toyota Hilux — SA’s best selling vehicle — and Corolla Cross to spike on the second-hand market as customers unwilling to wait for a new Toyota, or switch to another brand, turned to low-mileage pre-owned models.
Some dealers took advantage by increasing prices of used Hiluxes to nearly R1m, considerably higher than the R917,900 list price of a new top-of-the-range Hilux. Other used Toyotas, including the Corolla Cross, Fortuner and Corolla Quest, are also being advertised for considerably more than their new retail prices.
Turning to the parts warehouse in Boksburg, TSAM has expanded the facility in a R356m investment. At 80,000 square metres , roughly the size of 11 football fields, it is the largest automotive warehouse in the southern hemisphere. The original warehouse was built in 2012 and has been doubled in size to serve as one of Toyota’s five global parts hubs.
TSAM has boosted the SA economy with more than R12bn in manufacturing facilities, equipment updates and dealer operations in the past decade. The lion’s share went towards production of the Corolla Cross range from October 2021 in Prospecton.