Toyota stops production at French factory

Automotive Industry

Source: Automotive News Europe, 2020-03-17

Toyota Europe will halt production at its factory in Valenciennes, northern France, starting on Wednesday 18 March to comply with the country’s lockdown measures designed to stop the spread of the coronavirus, the company said.

The plant would be shut for an “undetermined period,” Toyota said in an emailed statement. Other automakers with factories in France, including Renault Group and PSA Group, are started closing their factories in the country on Monday.

The plant builds the Yaris small car, Toyota’s best-selling model in Europe. The company sold 211,714 last year in the region, according to data from market analyst JATO Dynamics 

The Valenciennes plant is gearing up to launch a replacement model later this year and is also preparing to build a small SUV based on the Yaris platform. The factory opened in 2001 and employs about 4,500 people, including temporary workers.

Toyota said it was also shutting operations at its Toyota Caetano plant in Ovar, Portugal, where it builds the Land Cruiser in low volumes for export outside of Europe. The plant would be shut for two weeks. 

Toyota’s other European plants -- in Kolin, Czech Republic, and Burnaston, England -- will continue to operate, the company said.

Toyota said that some administrative, payroll and engineering staff would be kept on at Valenciennes. The project teams directing the launch of the new Yaris at the plant will also remain at work.

Toyota recently moved to three shifts at Valenciennes in preparation for the he new small SUV's introduction, which is scheduled to take place early next year. It had expected to increase production close to the plant's capacity of 300,000 with the new, as-yet unnamed car, the company has said. Toyota had planned to display the new car at the Geneva auto show but delayed the reveal after the show was canceled due to the threat of coronavirus.

Toyota said it has asked employees at its Brussels headquarters to work from home. It said that about 95 percent of the staff had done so on Monday.

Toyota said it had closed dealer showrooms in countries that had mandated restrictions on commerce and movement in an effort to slow the spread of the virus. Affected countries include Austria, the Czech Republic, France, Italy, Slovakia and Spain.

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