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Toyota stops production at French factory over Covid-19

Toyota Europe has halted the production at its factory the Yaris small hatchback, Toyota’s best-selling model in Europe. The model is built at the automaker’s factory in Valenciennes, northern France to comply with the country’s lockdown measures designed to stop the spread of the coronavirus, the company said.

BusinessDay learnt that the plant would be shut for an “undetermined period,” Toyota said in an emailed statement. Other automakers with factories in France, including Renault Group and PSA Group, started closing their factories in the last Monday.

The plant builds the Yaris small car, Toyota’s best-selling model in Europe. The company sold 211,714 last year in the region, according to data from market analyst JATO Dynamics.

Valenciennes plant is gearing up to launch a replacement model later this year and is also preparing to build a small SUV based on the Yaris platform. The factory opened in 2001 and employs about 4,500 people, including temporary workers.

Toyota said it was also shutting operations at its Toyota Caetano plant in Ovar, Portugal, where it builds the Land Cruiser in low volumes for export outside of Europe. While other plants would be shut for two weeks, other European plants in Kolin, Czech Republic, and Burnaston, England will continue to operate, the company said.

With some administrative, payroll and engineering staff kept on at Valenciennes, the project teams directing the launch of the new Yaris at the plant will also remain at work.

Toyota recently moved to three shifts at Valenciennes in preparation for the he new small SUV’s introduction, which is scheduled to take place early next year.

It had expected to increase production close to the plant’s capacity of 300,000 with the new, yet unnamed car, the company has said. Toyota had planned to display the new car at the Geneva auto show, but delayed the reveal after the show was canceled due to the threat of coronavirus.

Toyota said it has asked employees at its Brussels headquarters to work from home, even as about 95 percent of the staff had done so on Monday. Dealer showrooms in countries had also mandated restrictions on commerce and movement in an effort to slow the spread of the virus. Affected countries include Austria, the Czech Republic, France, Italy, Slovakia and Spain.

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