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Toyota braces for still more production cuts amid COVID-19 outbreak in Japan

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TOKYO – Toyota Motor Corp., reeling from COVID-19 outbreaks in Japan, has extended production suspensions in the home market, lopping off 65,000 units from its January output.

The country’s biggest automaker announced the latest slowdowns on Monday, just days after announcing widespread interruptions because of the pandemic and global microchip shortage.

On the plus side, the widening COVID-related slowdowns in January will conserve components that can be used in February. That will enable Toyota to keep more lines open in February and help it offset production cutbacks it had previously predicted for next month.

It remains unclear to what extent the latest wave of infections has impacted production at other companies’ plants in Japan.

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Toyota’s latest January suspensions hit 19 lines at 11 plants in Japan, out of a total of 28 lines in 14 plants. Affected vehicles include the Toyota Yaris, Corolla, Prius, Camry, C-HR and Land Cruiser, as well as the Lexus LC, LS IS, RC, NX and LX. Various domestic-market vans are also impacted.

Toyota said the stoppages boost the blow to 65,000 vehicles lost from Japanese output in January, including previous suspensions for January announced last month and last week.

The setback will make it difficult to reach Toyota’s earlier stated global production goal of 800,000 units in January, Toyota spokeswoman Shiori Hashimoto said.

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Of the 65,000 units lost in Japan in January, about 45,000 units will be lost due to COVID-19 interruptions, she said. The rest are related to the continuing semiconductor shortage.

Just last week, Toyota warned it would miss its global production target for the fiscal year as the carmaker capitulates to the double whammy of parts shortages and the pandemic.

Toyota said last week it expects global production to come in under the 9 million-vehicle target for the fiscal year ending March 31. It was the second time this fiscal year that Toyota dialed down its companywide production figure.

The warning came as Toyota said the global semiconductor shortage would force the carmaker to slash worldwide output by 150,000 units in February to about 700,000 vehicles.

Toyota blamed for the February downturn firmly on the ongoing microchip crisis.

Toyota started the current fiscal year targeting 9.3 million vehicles in the 12 months ending March 31. And the company largely confounded the industry by boosting output and notching record profits despite the pandemic-microchip broadside. But over last summer, Toyota finally succumbed to the global slowdown and joined rivals in pulling back production.

Last fall, it sounded an optimistic note saying that in December all 14 plants and 28 production lines in Japan would be “operating normally” for the first time since May.

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But last week, Toyota said February suspensions would hit 11 lines at eight plants in the home market. Now, however, because parts will now be freed up by the January COVID-19 suspensions, Toyota says it will need to suspend operations next month at only seven lines in six plants.

That will bring output back online for such nameplates as the Toyota Corolla, Prius and Camry, in addition to the Lexus LS, IS, RC and certain NX models.

Toyota had earlier said global production would reach 800,000 units in December and 800,000 in January. But it hasn’t announced official production results for those months yet.

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