Toyota SA is back on track after devastating floods
Remember the floods that devastated the KZN South Coast a few months ago? It was truly horrific to see the destruction caused however, we are South Africans, we are resilient. One of the worst hit areas was the Durban South Coastline and in particular the Toyota South Africa Motors Prospecton Plant. The plant was hard hit by raging water, mud and debris. The damage was so severe that officials had to shut the plant down. Was this the end for TSAM?
We recently joined them at the official reopening of the manufacturing fatality which was an incredible occasion considering the amount of damage done to the plant. Experts expected the plant to be down for at least 12 months but due to a collective local and global effort, Toyota started manufacturing after just 3 months.
Now, all lines are up and running and one of South Africa’s biggest auto manufacturers can once again continue adding to the local economy. TSAM was enjoying a healthy market share of 30% – on average – before its production plant in Durban was submerged in water. The automotive giant's market share took a dive, shrinking to 17%, 18,1% and 16,3% in the months of May, June and July – respectively. 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. The Corolla Quest production line has been activated at the time of writing this article. While production might not be at 100% capacity, the plant is quickly moving towards that.
While the organisation had genuine concerns about witnessing the trail of destruction at the plant, its first priority was the safety and welfare of its employees, contractors as well as their families. This was followed by support to dealers, suppliers, affected communities, and then the recovery of plant operations.
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 COVID-19 induced lockdowns in 2020 as well as the civil unrest that brought most businesses to their knees in 2021.
It also became clear that while there were more than 4 000 vehicles damaged on site during the floods, the costliest damage was to the plant infrastructure itself – including robots and other machines. These needed replacement and where that wasn't possible, many had to be cleaned. It was a task that saw employees from various departments climb in to assist.
Much of the factory floor was covered by a metre of muddy water, so mud had to be removed by hand as much as possible. In fact, as Kirby referenced one of his colleagues: “There was not a single square metre of the entire 87 hectares facility that was not affected. In fact, it would be easier to just build a new plant.”
Yet with hard work and dedication the plant has recovered, Japan gave unwavering support, UK and other markets have dispatched parts and Toyota even assisted its suppliers in the area to get back to operational capacity. It was a team effort and one which reaffirms the brands commitment to SA despite the camalites we face.