Toyota Poised to Restart Output at China Plant Shut in Blast

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Toyota Motor Corp. said it will restart work Thursday at China plants that were shut after explosions in the city of Tianjin.

Workers at two lines in the Tianjin Economic Technological Development Area will come back Thursday and start preparation to begin production on Friday, Toyota said in an e-mailed statement Wednesday. Employees at the Xiqing line will begin operations on Thursday, it said.

Production has been shut at Tianjin FAW Toyota Motor Co., the Japanese carmaker’s local affiliate, since the Aug. 12 blasts at a chemical storage site in the northern Chinese port city. The explosions killed at least 123 people and injured 67 Toyota workers who live in the area. About 4,700 Toyota and Lexus vehicles were also damaged.

The automaker said decisions about working overtime or extra shifts to recover lost production will be made as it continues to assess the state of its facilities. While Toyota said it can’t estimate lost output at this stage, the value of the missed production may be more than 660 million yuan ($103 million) a week, according to a Bloomberg calculation.

Toyota said it doesn’t expect sales to be “significantly affected” as they have a “certain amount of inventory.”

The automaker rose as much as 3.9 percent, the most since Dec. 19, to 7,190 yen and traded at 7,134 yen as of 9:13 a.m. in Tokyo. Japan’s benchmark Topix index climbed 2.6 percent. Toyota gained 2.9 percent Wednesday after Bloomberg reported workers had returned to the Tianjin plants and were preparing to restart production on a trial basis.

Volkswagen, Hyundai

The Tianjin disaster took a broader toll on the auto industry, damaging 2,700 Volkswagen AG vehicles, shutting a nearby Hyundai Motor Co. logistics center and forcing Fuji Heavy Industries Ltd. to divert car shipments to Shanghai. The warehouse that exploded stored about 1,300 metric tons of oxide compounds, the official Xinhua News Agency reported, citing Tianjin Vice Mayor He Shushan.

Tianjin FAW Toyota built about 26,300 vehicles a month through July, according to figures from researcher LMC Automotive. The value of that monthly production is about 2.83 billion yuan, according to a Bloomberg calculation based on the starting prices and average monthly output for each of the models Tianjin FAW Toyota makes, ranging from the 69,800-yuan Vios sedan to the 264,800-yuan Crown.

The affiliate built about 440,000 Crown, Reiz, Corolla and Vios cars last year, almost half of Toyota’s annual vehicle output in China.

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