Toyota, Honda reopen factories in Malaysia after list of ‘essential’ manufacturers updated

Honda and Toyota reportedly temporarily shut down their plants in Malaysia on January 13 and January 14 respectively. ― Reuters pic
Honda and Toyota reportedly temporarily shut down their plants in Malaysia on January 13 and January 14 respectively. ― Reuters pic

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KUALA LUMPUR, Jan 19 — Japanese automotive giants Toyota Motor Corp and Honda Motor Company Ltd yesterday resumed operations at their assembly plants in Malaysia, after the federal government again updated its list of essential businesses allowed to operate during the movement control order (MCO) reintroduced this year.

Tokyo-based Nikkei Asia reported that both companies have started their plants in Malaysia again yesterday, noting that the federal government “changed its mind” after lobbying from the automotive industry and the Japan External Trade Organisation to allow resumption of their operations.

Nikkei Asia said that Malaysia’s national automaker Perodua Bhd — backed by Japanese car firm Daihatsu Motor Co Ltd — was also expected to restart its operations yesterday evening.

Honda and Toyota reportedly temporarily shut down their plants in Malaysia on January 13 and January 14 respectively, while Perodua also stopped production on January 14, Nikkei last week reported.

On January 11, the prime minister announced that the MCO would be imposed again on Selangor, Kuala Lumpur, Putrajaya, Labuan, Penang, Melaka, Johor and Sabah from January 13 to January 26.

Kelantan on January 16 also joined the list of states under MCO until January 26, while three districts in Sarawak are also under MCO from January 16 until January 29. Port Dickson and Seremban are under MCO from January 19 until February 1.

On January 12 afternoon, the Ministry of International Trade and Industry released a list of essential industries and businesses allowed to continue operating during MCO 2.0, which included automotive manufacturing and after-sales services.

But the exemption appeared to have been pulled at the last minute that evening, when the list was updated to be only for automotive repair and maintenance. Auto production was suspended as well during the first lockdown implemented in March 2020.

Regulations gazetted online by the government dated January 12 list the manufacturing and production of “automotive equipment” as an essential service that will be allowed to operate. Automotive repair and maintenance was not included in this gazette as a listed essential service.

The government gazette on MCO 2.0 regulations dated January 15 updated the list of essential services to allow for the manufacturing and production of “automotive (vehicles and components)” instead of the “automotive equipment” previously listed, while also adding “automotive (maintenance and repair)” as a separate business under the services category that is allowed to continue to operate.

Malaysia is the third largest auto producer in South-east Asia, behind Thailand and Indonesia. Output during the January-November period of last year fell 19 per cent to roughly 430,000 vehicles.

Perodua sold 220,154 vehicles in 2020, while Honda’s annual capacity in the market is 300,000 two-wheelers and 100,000 four-wheel vehicles. Toyota reportedly manufactured around 61,000 vehicles in Malaysia in 2019.

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