TOYOTA: INSPIRING CONFIDENCE IN TIME OF GREAT UNCERTAINTY
“The message I want to share with you, is that we at Toyota are gearing up for business whatever the shape or form. Our top priority is the safety and welfare of our customers as well as our employees. The key challenge for us, will be to implement social distancing throughout our operations, suppliers and dealerships. We have prepared a comprehensive set of risk-adjusted measures to ensure that we create an environment where our employees and customers are protected,” says President and CEO of Toyota South Africa Motors (TSAM), Andrew Kirby.
Kirby – accompanied by Senior Vice President of Sales and Marketing at TSAM, Leon Theron – hosted a virtual round-table discussion in which they updated media on the organisation’s immediate interventions, industry challenges as well as operational changes influenced by the outbreak of COVID-19.
TSAM’s proactive interventions when the Coronavirus hit South Africa ranged from supplying staff with necessary hygiene products as well as introducing social distancing measures at the workplace before the country was put on a five-week lockdown. However, as an organisation that sees itself as corporate citizen first, TSAM had to step in – offering technical and operational support to Toyota and Hino vehicles being utilised in essential services.
According to Theron: “Our Technical team and Field Technical Managers are also prepared for remote technical support. A skeleton staff is operational at the Parts Warehouse to manage VOR (vehicle off road) parts supply for large Toyota and Hino fleets involved in essential services.
“Also, up to 167 Toyota and Hino dealers across the country are on standby as we speak, to support the operation of essential services during this lockdown period and, in fact, to date we have assisted 321 vehicles (and a total of 922 parts) involved in these essential services. These include food delivery services, medical support services, selected municipal services and emergency services. Taxi-industry suppliers responsible for transporting essential-services providers such as bank personnel, supermarket or hospital staff also eligible for support.”
TSAM is also pleased to remind South Africans that, with effect from 1 April – 30 June 2020, its sister company Toyota Financial Services (TFS) is implementing measures to provide relief to individual and business customers whose financial stability has been impacted by COVID-19. These interventions will assist customers who demonstrated sound banking behaviour, such as having honoured their repayments to TFS on a consistent basis prior to COVID-19. Customers who have been impacted are therefore encouraged to contact TFS through their preferred channel to make the necessary arrangements.
Internally, Kirby says TSAM is doing everything in its might to guarantee the security of its employees. “Starting with our workforce – that is the 7 883 employees on our physical payroll –to instill security and ensure business continuity, we have secured full pay for all our staff during this lockdown period. Those in a position to work remotely have been doing so at full speed and will continue to do so to varying degrees in order to facilitate social distancing, which will still very much be an issue going forward,” he adds.
During this global pandemic around COVID-19, Toyota affiliates across the globe have supported the public with donations and production of safety equipment. In South Africa, the Toyota team in Durban has utilised the technical expertise of the production engineering department to design and prototype a face shield for mass production.
Toyota South Africa has the capacity to produce 20 000 face shield a week and they will be used locally at Prospecton Plant in Durban, at Toyota dealerships, at Toyota suppliers and will be also supplied to local hospitals as well as first-time responders. The mass production of these face shields started on 20 April, and the first delivery will be made to Prince Mshiyeni in Umlazi in the course of the week.
Kirby explains: “Our approach is to produce over 100 000 face shields which we will deliver free of charge but then to hand over the business to an SMME and create a new supplier who can then continue operating. So we would like to use this as an opportunity to support the country’s need for safety equipment but also use this opportunity to create jobs and a new business opportunity.”
Kirby also announced that Toyota will be supporting disadvantaged communities – through the distribution of food parcels – in areas around Prospecton Plant, Sandton office and Atlas Road Warehouse. “Our focus will be on informal settlements – as our President reminded us that these are some of the neediest people in our country. We’ll start off delivering around food parcels on Friday in the communities around our production plant and then follow with delivering in Gauteng,” he says.
Taxi Industry Support
Theron summarises TSAM’s intervention in the taxi industry as follows: “The focus is two-fold – providing assistance on the one hand and educating on the other. When it comes to physically helping – Toyota is making 40 vehicles available to the taxi organisations for a minimum period of a month, but longer if needed. These will be used to implement COVID-19 countermeasures including inspecting taxi ranks and so forth. We have also started rolling out the bulk supply of sanitisers and masks to taxi operators and commuters – the value alone of these two initiatives is R8,5 million (total value of campaign is R10,3 m).”
With reference to education, TSAM has created a whole Covid-19 awareness campaign to support the Taxi industry. Some of the elements have already been put in place such as billboards at taxi ranks – 31 sites out of 100 have been erected so far. The remainder will go up after lockdown.
“The one item I’m particularly proud of is the commuter safety animation video: it’s already been flighting on limited Taxi TV* platforms from 3 April, with full flighting to begin on after lockdown for a period of two months,” says Theron.
Kirby says there is no doubt that COVID-19 is causing dire consequences for the global economy, with the latest casualty being the price of oil which has just plunged below zero for the first time in history: “But what is the situation here at Toyota? The Toyota plant in Prospecton Durban which produces Corolla Quest, Hiace, Fortuner, Hilux and also assembles several Hino models, is presently in lockdown and was mothballed on the 26th March.
“In real terms this means that by the end of lockdown, production volume lost will be 13 443 units. Of course we don’t know exactly what form start-up will take or even when – we are of course looking at a number of possible scenarios including a staggered start – but as you can see the impact is considerable. In monetary terms it’s hard to put a price on this as it’s not just the value of the lost production that needs to be taken into account, you’ve also got to factor in a workforce of line workers who are essentially idle,” says Kirby.
A sentiment shared by President of Toyota Motor Corporation Akio Toyoda suggests all Toyota affiliates, including TSAM, will continue to base their operational decisions on the guidance received from the authorities. This sentiment also governs TSAM’s start-up plans after lockdown has been lifted.
“It is not going to be business as usual, so we have put measures in place to ensure employee safety first by providing for multiple scenarios, including a staggered start-up, strict hygiene protocols and numerous remote working options.
“And, from a business point of view, we have put numerous measures in place to ensure we pick up the pace, keep our cash flow healthy and keep Toyota SA’s favourite brand,” concludes Kirby.