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Thai floods halt Aussie ute supplies

Paused: The recent flooding in Thailand has halted production of the top-selling Toyota HiLux ute, among others.

Production of Australia’s top-selling one-tonners idled by Thai floods

17 Oct 2011

SUPPLIES of some of Australia’s most popular one-tonners will be affected by catastrophic flooding in Thailand, where Toyota’s top-selling HiLux and most of its ute rivals are built.

Honda production has also been brought to a standstill by the devastating Thai natural disaster, which has stopped production of the HiLux, Ford’s new Australian-engineered Ranger and the closely related new Mazda BT-50, which goes on sale here this week.

“The initial information to date is a proportion of October (production) allocation will be delayed and built in November and, likewise, a proportion of November allocation will be delayed and built in December,” Toyota Australia public relations manager Mike Breen told GoAuto.

“The full extent of the flood impact remains unclear. We are continuing to monitor the situation closely.”

Toyota reported that none of its plants or employees have been directly affected by the floods, which have so far claimed more than 300 lives and left more than 1000 homeless.

However, Toyota was forced to close its three plants at Samrong, Gateway and Ban Pho from October 10 due to parts supply interruptions.

Production at all three plants was due to resume on October 17, but late last week the company announced it would extend the shutdown until at least October 22.

8 center imageLeft: Ford Ranger. Below: Mazda BT-50.

“Currently, recovery efforts are being made on a company-wide basis, based on a close observation of the supply chain situation,” said Toyota on October 14, when it also announced a 20 million baht ($A630,000) donation for the Thai flood relief effort.

“A decision on production at the plants from October 24 onwards will be based on a close observation of the situation as it develops.”

Toyota, which has just resumed full global production following the crippling Japanese earthquake and tsunami of March 11, produces all examples of Australia’s top-selling HiLux in Thailand.

Toyota Motor Thailand (TMT), which employs about 16,000 workers and will celebrate its 50th anniversary on October 5 next year, produced 630,000 vehicles in 2010.

Established in 1964, the Samrong factory has the capacity to produce 230,000 HiLux vehicles per annum, while the four-year-old Ban Pho plant can make up to 220,000 HiLux and Fortuner vehicles annually and the 15-year-old Gateway facility has the capacity to manufacture 200,000 Camry, Camry Hybrid, Prius, Corolla and other vehicles per year.

TMT is an integral part of Toyota’s global operations, as the worldwide supplier of its ‘Innovative Multi-purpose Vehicle’ (IMV) – encompassing three HiLux body derivatives, the HiLux-based Innova people-mover and Fortuner SUV – for about 100 countries.

Toyota’s Australian sales, which were severely affected by the Japanese tsunami in March, have recovered to be 16.6 per cent down so far this year, with HiLux 4x2 sales down 17.7 per cent and HiLux 4x4 sales down 2.1 per cent.

Meantime, the Auto Alliance (Thailand) plant that makes the new Ford Ranger and Mazda BT-50 utes remained closed on Monday (October 17), with the company monitoring the situation on a daily basis.

“Production on the pick-up truck line remains suspended at this time,” said AAT on October 17. “We will continue with a day-to-day assessment of our production capabilities.

“AAT is located in an area of Rayong that has not been affected by the floods. However, a number of AAT’s suppliers operating in Ayutthaya province have been affected, and we are working with them on a daily basis to assist in their business continuity and recovery actions.”

AAT’s passenger car line at Rayong – which manufactures the Mazda2 and, for Australia, Ford’s Fiesta – remained operational this week, but Ford Australia spokesman Peter Fadeyev said the full impact of continued heavy rainfall in central and northern Thailand since July was not yet known.

“It’s too early to understand the full impact, and we don’t want to speculate,” he said.

Mazda Australia spokesman Steve Maciver said the launch of the redesigned BT-50 would not be affected.

"We're not anticipating direct supply issues with BT-50," he said.

"Dual Cab supplies are coming through strongly at the moment and we'll have Freestyle within the next month or so, with Single Cab to follow early next year."Meanwhile, at Honda, which produces the vast majority of its Australian models in Thailand, slow sales and a recent shipment of vehicles from Thailand is expected to minimise the impact of the floods on Australian customers.

On October 4, Honda suspended all vehicle production at its Ayutthaya factory – which produces the Civic, Jazz, City, CR-V and Accord for Australia – until at least October 21. It remains unable to access the facility due to an evacuation order.

Honda Australia, whose sales are down 23.4 per cent to September this year, told GoAuto there will be no significant impact on local stock levels in the short term.

Holden said that at this stage there is no interruption to Thai production of its new Colorado, which will be among a procession of new one-tonne ute models to arrive Down Under early next year.

“Production at GM Thailand’s Rayong manufacturing facility that builds the Colorado continues and Holden is currently not impacted by the floods. However, the situation will continue to be monitored,” said GM Holden product communications senior manager Kate Lonsdale.

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