NEW YORK -- Toyota Motor announced on Thursday it will resume automobile production at all of its 14 plants in North America from May 4 after a one-and-a-half month suspension due to the novel coronavirus.
Production will restart at all finished car and parts factories in the U.S, Canada and Mexico, which have been suspended from March 23, meaning about 32,000 employees are set to return to work. The suspension was extended three times on sluggish automobile sales due to the impact of the coronavirus. But the company has decided to restart production in consideration of the impact on dealers and parts manufacturers.
With the resumption, preventing infection among employees on the production line will be challenge for the automaker.
At the reopened factories, employees will receive masks and face shields to wear for protection and will take their temperatures before work. They will also maintain a distance of at least 6 feet, or about 1.8 meters, during work and breaks. Employees will also be divided into groups that will use cafeterias at different times to reduce congestion and break spaces will be sanitized multiple times daily.
Although the efficiency and operating rates at plants will decrease, Toyota will gradually begin full-scale operations while giving priority to safety. Initially, it will restart at an operating rate of about 50% and aim for complete normalization by June.
Honda and Germany's Volkswagen are also scheduled to resume factory operations from early May to mid-May.