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Toyota to extend US plant closure for another 2 weeks

Output in America and Japan will be cut further amid coronavirus pandemic

Toyota's plant in Kentucky. The automaker's move follows similar steps taken earlier this week by Nissan and Honda.

NEW YORK -- Toyota Motor said Wednesday that it will extend its plant shutdown in North America for another two weeks, through May 1, in a move aimed at responding to a prolonged lockdown in the U.S. and preventing virus infections at its plants.

The Japanese carmaker said it will release its 5,000 temporary workers in the U.S., while maintaining direct employees, totaling 32,000, in North America.

The plants in the U.S., Canada and Mexico had been scheduled to reopen on April 17, but the reopening is now postponed to May 4.

The shutdown was expected to last for only two days from March 23, but has been extended a number of times as the coronavirus outbreak has shown few signs of abating.

The 5,000 temporary workers are being released without pay. The 32,000 directly employed workers have an option of taking paid leave or going without pay between April 13-17.

After that, they will be given special paid leave for four of five working days. For the remaining one day, they will have an option of using their paid leave or going without pay.

The workers will be entitled to the corporate benefit program as before. They are asked to come back to work once the plants resume operations.

The move follows decisions by Nissan Motor and Honda Motor to furlough workers in the U.S. In America, workers are entitled to public unemployment benefits while they are on furlough. The public benefit programs were expanded by the federal government as a coronavirus-fighting measure, making the combined sum of state and federal benefits more than wages workers could receive during the shutdown.

U.S. automakers, such as General Motors and Ford, have also terminated production. In March, sales plunged almost 40% from a year before amid stay-at-home requests in many U.S. states.

In Japan, where a soft lockdown was introduced on Tuesday, Mitsubishi Motors decided to extend the shutdown of its minivehicle plant in Kurashiki, western Japan, through April 14. The Kurashiki plant was initially scheduled for closure from March 27 to April 10.

A production suspension at an SUV factory in Sakahogi, central Japan, will also be extended to April 30 from April 20.

Production of regular passenger vehicles at the Kurashiki plant was suspended on April 6. The shutdown could last through April 30, company officials said.

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