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Coronavirus

Toyota restarts final Chinese plant shut by virus outbreak

Japanese carmaker's other three factories in China operating at half capacity

Workers wear masks as they return to Toyota Motor's factory in Guangzhou on Feb. 17 after a shutdown prolonged by the coronavirus outbreak. (Photo by Yusuke Hinata)

NAGOYA, Japan -- Toyota Motor restarted its fourth and final Chinese assembly plant Monday following a nearly monthlong shutdown sparked by the deadly coronavirus outbreak.

Work resumed at the plant in the city of Chengdu after Toyota delayed the restart three times. All of the Japanese automaker's factories in China were originally closed for the official Lunar New Year holiday, but remained idled well after the extended 10-day break ended Feb. 2.

Toyota's other joint venture plants in the northern city of Tianjin and the provinces of Jilin and Guangdong went back online Monday or Tuesday of last week. But all three are operating at roughly half the original capacity.

The Chengdu plant, located in Sichuan Province, will operate at about the same capacity as before the holiday break since its output is smaller than that of the other factories. Toyota decided on the restart after securing the auto parts needed for production and gaining confidence about worker safety.

For the other plants, Toyota will continue to monitor conditions concerning part inventories, logistics and workers. President Akio Toyoda previously indicated that Chinese assembly lines will resume gradually.

"Automobiles have a broad base, and there are various things like the status of parts supplies that you don't know until you put everything in motion again," Toyoda said Feb. 17.

Toyota appears better positioned than other manufacturers to resume operations because its factories and main suppliers are located away from Hubei Province, the epicenter of the coronavirus outbreak. Honda Motor, which has three factories in the quarantined provincial capital of Wuhan, will not restart operations until March 11 at the earliest.

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