Toyota, and more specifically its future in South Africa, has come under the spotlight in the aftermath of last week’s disturbing and destructive civil unrest. Various reports stated that Toyota’s COO of the African region, Toshimitsu Imai, had written a letter to the Mayor of Durban, expressing uncertainty about the future of its manufacturing base in KwaZulu-Natal.
After contacting Toyota South Africa’s communications department for comment, we were told that TMC did indeed issue a letter requesting an action plan from local government. However, the company also felt that the matter had been sensationalised.
“Please note that one or two media platforms have sensationalised the narrative for click bait – their angle is first and foremost that we are threatening to close shop, whereas our focus as a concerned corporate citizen is to ensure that local government has a definite plan of action to protect jobs and investment,” Toyota South Africa Motors (TSAM) said in a statement.
It added that the company had since received a “positive response” from the city and province in the form of a recovery roadmap. “This has gone a long way to assuage the fears of our parent company TMC,” the local division said.
TSAM added that it intended to resume operations at its Prospecton plant on Tuesday, July 20, however it said the company could not at this stage assess the impact on production. “It has, without a doubt, made targets more challenging but in the true Toyota spirit, we are changing our plans to recover as quickly as possible to avoid delaying future product introductions in particular.”
Future investment impacted?
However, in the letter that circulated on social media recently, Imai did describe the timing as unfortunate, given that the local division is currently negotiating the production of the next-generation Hilux. However, Imai also stated that “a clear understanding of the City’s countermeasures to firstly bring the current issues under control and then rebuild the economy” would assist in that regard.
TSAM is expected to begin production of its first-ever Corolla Cross at the Prospecton plant near Durban later this year. The newcomer is the first locally-built vehicle to use the company’s latest TNGA modular platform, and it will also be the company’s first locally-produced hybrid model.