The reopening was attended by members of the media, Toyota South Africa Motors (TSAM) top brass as well as the newly elected premier of KwaZulu-Natal, Nomusa Dube-Ncube, and Siboniso Duma, the MEC for 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. 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.
“We communicated with Japan (Toyota Motor Corporation) on April 12; 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,” said the 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 the Covid-19 induced lockdowns in 2020 as well as the civil unrest that brought most businesses to their knees in 2021.
“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,” said 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 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 87ha facility that was not affected. In fact, it would be easier to just build a new plant.”
Before introducing KZN 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.”
“On behalf of the KZN Government and the people of the province, we wish to pay a tribute to Toyota South Africa for the enormous strides 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. We know that through your hard work and agility, you were able to save people’s jobs,” said Dube-Ncube.