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Japan automakers resume some operations in virus-hit China

The Nanjing factory of Changan Mazda Automobile Co., a joint venture between Mazda Motor Corp. and Changan Automobile Co., is shown to the press on July 6, 2015, in Jiangsu Province, China. (Kyodo)

NAGOYA (Kyodo) -- Major Japanese automakers partially resumed operations at factories in China on Monday after they had been suspended due to a new coronavirus outbreak, seeking a gradual return to full operations as parts procurement and logistics disruptions continued.

    Toyota Motor Corp. said that of its four vehicle plants in China, those in Changchun and Guangzhou restarted manufacturing. The factories in Tianjin and Chengdu will resume output from Tuesday and Feb. 24 or later, respectively.

    The Japanese auto giant had initially planned to restart the four assembly plants on Feb. 3 or 4 following the Lunar New Year holiday but was forced to postpone the schedule twice due to requests from local governments for operation suspensions amid the expansion of virus infections.

    "As we will only know the situation for local parts makers when we (actually) resume operations at our factories, we want to operate them carefully with safety as the top priority," Toyota President Akio Toyoda told reporters.

    Toyota produced some 1.40 million vehicles in China last year, or around 15 percent of its global output. Sales in the country reached some 1.62 million units in 2019, exceeding sales in Japan.

    Honda Motor Co. said it has partially resumed output at three of its four car factories in Guangzhou and will gradually increase production. The three plants have a combined output of 600,000 units a year.

    As for its plants in central China's Wuhan, the epicenter of the coronavirus crisis, the automaker has said it aims to start preparing for a production restart on Friday and resumption of operations on Feb. 24 or later.

    Nissan Motor Co. said it has restarted production in Guangzhou on Monday but again postponed resumption at a factory in Dalian to Friday or later and at plants in Zhengzhou and Xiangyang to Feb. 24 or later.

    Mazda Motor Corp. restarted its vehicle plant in Nanjing at reduced output on Monday, aiming for full operation gradually, in line with the availability of parts. It had previously aimed for a Feb. 12 restart at the earliest.

    The automaker is also preparing to resume operations at its engine factory in Nanjing, while its vehicle plant in Changchun is expected to restart in the near future.

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