May 12, 2008 / 1:12 PM / 11 years ago

Toyota suspends China plant after quake

TOKYO/SHANGHAI (Reuters) - Toyota Motor Corp (7203.T) on Monday suspended production at a 13,000-units-a-year joint venture plant in Chengdu, southwestern China, after a powerful earthquake struck, killing at least 107 people.

Local residents search for their belongings in the debris of a collapsed house after an earthquake in Dujiangyan, Sichuan province May 12, 2008 in this picture distributed by China's official Xinhua News Agency. REUTERS/Xinhua/Chen Xie

A spokeswoman in Tokyo said operations at the factory, held jointly with China’s FAW Group, would also be halted at least for the first shift on Tuesday, from 8:30 a.m. to 5:30 p.m., for inspection.

It will decide when to resume operations after inspecting any damages at the factory, which builds the Prado SUV and Coaster microbus, she said.

None of its employees working at the time was hurt, she added. The factory employs about 1,600.

Toyota, the third-biggest foreign car brand in China, has total annual production capacity of 643,000 vehicles in the world’s second-largest auto market.

FAW operates a separate factory in Chengdu which builds 24,000 Jetta sedans a year for Volkswagen AG (VOWG.DE). That represents about 2.4 percent of the German carmaker’s total capacity in China.

Other foreign carmakers reported no immediate damage to their operations, although they said they would monitor the impact of components supply.

An earthquake of magnitude 7.8 in Sichuan Province on Monday afternoon leveled houses and schools in the region, burying at least 900 teenagers under rubble. The tremor caused buildings to sway as far away as Shanghai and Bangkok.

Staff at a facility in Chongqing, near Sichuan, held by Ford Motor Co (F.N), Mazda Motor Corp (7261.T) and Changan Automobile Co (000625.SZ) were briefly evacuated out of safety concerns but returned to work minutes later, Ford spokesman Kenneth Hsu said.

“When the earthquake first hit, our staff were ordered to evacuate the plant for roughly 10 minutes, but they have returned to work now,” he said.

Suzuki Motor Corp (7269.T), which also operates a car factory in Chongqing, said the earthquake did not damage its operations. The factory was also briefly evacuated.

General Motors Corp GM.M, Nissan Motor Co (7201.T) and Honda Motor Co (7267.T) said their operations in China were not immediately affected by the quake.

Reporting by Chang-Ran Kim and Nobuhiro Kubo in Tokyo, Fang Yan in Shanghai

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