[TOKYO] Toyota Motor Corp is beginning trial production of cars at the China plants that were shut after explosions in the city of Tianjin, the first step in reopening the facilities following a two-week closure, people familiar with the matter said.
Workers have returned to the plants and Toyota is preparing to resume output on a trial basis before making a decision this week on whether to resume full production, said the people, who asked not to be named discussing private plans. A test run of about 100 cars will start today, one of the people said.
Production has been shut down at Tianjin FAW Toyota Motor Co, the Japanese carmaker's local affiliate, since the Aug 12 blasts at a chemical storage site in the northern Chinese port city.
The explosions killed at least 123 people and injured 67 Toyota workers who live in the area. About 4,700 Toyota and Lexus vehicles were also damaged.
Toyota hasn't made a decision yet on when it will restart production, Ryo Sakai, a company spokesman, said by phone.
Shares of Toyota gained as much as 3.7 per cent, the most intraday since Dec 19. They were trading at 6,947 yen, or up 3.3 per cent, as of 1.37pm in Tokyo. The benchmark Topix index rose 2.6 per cent.
The disaster took a broader toll on the auto industry, damaging 2,700 Volkswagen AG vehicles, shutting a nearby Hyundai Motor Co logistics centre and forcing Fuji Heavy Industries Ltd to divert car shipments to Shanghai. The warehouse that exploded stored about 1,300 metric tons of oxide compounds, the official Xinhua News Agency has reported, citing Tianjin Vice Mayor He Shushan.
Tianjin FAW Toyota built about 440,000 Crown, Reiz, Corolla and Vios cars last year, almost half of Toyota's annual vehicle output in China.
Toyota has said its operations will restart once the company is able to confirm the safety of its facilities and the surrounding area.