Toyota Manufacturing Canada Inc. has resumed production at all its factories in Ontario now that employees at a major supplier have returned to work after a COVID-19 outbreak subsided.
Toyotetsu, in Simcoe, Ont., about 76 miles northwest of Toronto, ceased production the week of April 26 after eight employees tested positive for the virus.
That led Toyota to cease production of the RAV4, RAV4 Hybrid, Lexus RX 350 and the RX 450h Hybrid, due to a parts shortage.
Toyotetsu employees started trickling back to work May 5 and Toyota resumed production Tuesday.
Toyotetsu said in a statement that it had reduced the number of positive cases to three from eight among its 1,200 employees.
“We’ve been working closely with the Haldimand-Norfolk Public Health Unit on a return-to-work plan focused on the health and safety of our employees and communities,” the company said in the statement. “Following the guidance of public health officials, we have started implementing a phased approach to resuming our operations, with a gradual and careful ramp-up of production.
"This will allow our employees to return to a work environment that has implemented a number of additional health and safety protocols designed to keep the virus out of our facilities and provide them with the safest possible work environment.”
The supplier said that since the pandemic started there had been only two cases “where it has been found likely that transmission occurred within our facility.”
The Simcoe Reformer reported that there have been two dozen cases of COVID-19 at the supplier altogether.
Charlene Ewing, a spokesperson for Toyotetsu, told the newspaper that the plant floor and break areas have been reconfigured to allow for continuous physical distancing. Where that isn’t possible, employees are separated by plexiglass, according to the report.
Toyotetsu manufactures body and chassis parts for all three of Toyota’s assembly plants in the province.
The return to work means Toyota can get back to manufacturing the RAV4, its top-selling vehicle in the U.S. and Canada.
The RAV4 was the No. 1 vehicle in the red-hot U.S. compact crossover segment during the first quarter with deliveries surging 17 percent to 114,255 units. The RAV4 also ranks as the fourth best-selling vehicle overall in the U.S., behind the Ford F-Series, Ram and Chevy Silverado.
Toyota also produces the RAV4 in the U.S. at its plant in Georgetown, Ky.
Toyota has two plants — North and South — in Cambridge, Ont., and a plant in Woodstock, Ont. The Lexus NX, RX350, RX450h hybrid are built at the South plant. The other two plants assemble the RAV4.
Toyota Canada didn’t comment other than to say production had resumed at all plants.