Toyota resumes production at its Durban plant

Toyota South Africa Motors (TSAM) has announced that its Prospecton Plant in Durban has resumed operations after production was halted due to damages caused by floods in the facility. The announcement was made at a “reopening ceremony” attended by members of the media, TSAM top brass as well as the newly elected Premier of KwaZulu-Natal, Nomusa Dube-Ncube, and Siboniso Duma, MEC of Economic Development, Tourism and Environmental Affairs.

TSAM was enjoying a healthy market share of 30% – on average – before its production plant in Durban was submerged in water following the devastating floods that engulfed parts of KwaZulu-Natal in April. This immediately put TSAM on the backfoot, with its market share shrinking to 17%, 18.1% and 16.3% in the months of May, June and July – respectively. Despite this, Toyota held on to its number-one position in sales.

TSAM’s Prospecton Plant produces Corolla Cross and Quest as well as segment leaders Hilux, Hiace Ses’fikile and Fortuner – while also assembling a variety of Hino commercial vehicles. All the other production lines have resumed production with the exception of Corolla Quest, which is due to commence on 17 August.

While the organisation had genuine concerns about witnessing the trail of destruction at the plant, its first priority was the safety and welfare of its employers, contractors as well as their families. This was followed by support to dealers, suppliers, affected communities, and then the recovery of plant operations.

“We communicated with Japan (Toyota Motor Corporation) on the night of the 12th April. I very quickly got a message back of support and an offer from them to do whatever they could to help. They dispatched a lot of experts to support us, helping us to repair, identify, diagnose and replace and then communicating with suppliers all over the world to source replacement parts,” says President and CEO of TSAM, Andrew Kirby.

The process towards the plant’s full recovery has been long, with pre-floods level forecasted to be achieved in December. Prior to the floods, operations at the Prospecton Plant were halted due to COVID-19 induced lockdowns in 2020 as well as the civil unrest that brought most businesses to their knees in 2021.

“Despite these challenges, there was no impact at all to Toyota’s long-term future in South Africa. The commitment to rebuild this site has been incredible. We know that our recovery will not be smooth, but by next year we plan to be stronger and better than we were before.

“TSAM’s operations at Prospecton will actually be better and we plan to use this crisis to try and improve our equipment and upgrade where we can. In fact, we’ve created an internal slogan for our recovery called Rebuilding Better Together. This talks to how we all work together as one team to find a way of renewing and improving our site at the same time,” says Kirby.

The internal slogan also came through during the tour of the plant tour, where various presenters recalled the extent of the damage in their areas and how recovery processes were carried out to ensure that the plant will not susceptible to similar devastation in future. It also became clear that while there were more than 4 000 vehicles damaged on site during the floods, the costliest damage was to the plant infrastructure itself – including robots and other machines.

In fact, as Kirby referenced one of his colleagues: “There was not a single square metre of the entire 87 hectares facility that was not affected. In fact, it would be easier to just build a new plant.”

Before introducing KZN Premier Dube-Ncube to the podium, MEC Duma said: “The reopening of the plant is not only good news to Toyota South Africa, but also to the economy of the province. This also shows Toyota’s commitment to investing in the province of KZN as well as the local automotive industry.”

Kirby agreed that there was a scope for TSAM to further bolster the already strong collaborations with the government of KZN. This was also echoed by Premier Dube-Ncube who commented that she would encourage her provincial colleagues to make Toyota the vehicle of choice for her government.

“On behalf of the government of KZN, the people of KZN, we wish to pay a tribute to Toyota South Africa for the enormous strides that they took in resuscitating operations here at the plant. To all the stakeholders who participated in the clean-up operations, we would really like to thank you as the government of KZN. We know that through your hard work and agility, you were able to save people’s jobs,” says Dube-Ncube.