Maruti Suzuki, Toyota restarting production as India eases lockdown

07, May. 2020

Kenichi Ayukawa, managing director and CEO of Maruti Suzuki India (L) and Shashank Srivastava, executive director for its marketing & sales, launching the mini SUV S-Presso in New Delhi on Sep. 30, 2019. (NNA)
Kenichi Ayukawa, managing director and CEO of Maruti Suzuki India (L) and Shashank Srivastava, executive director for its marketing & sales, launching the mini SUV S-Presso in New Delhi on Sep. 30, 2019. (NNA)

NEW DELHI, NNA - India’s largest passenger car maker Maruti Suzuki India Ltd. and Toyota Kirloskar Motor Pvt. Ltd. are resuming operations in May after the government started easing restrictions imposed in a nationwide shutdown for more than a month.

While the local unit of Toyota Motor Corp. already activated “preparatory operations” on Tuesday at its Bidadi-based plant in the southern Indian state of Karnataka, Suzuki Motor's local subsidiary will resume production at its Manesar factory in the northern state of Haryana on May 12.

“All activities would be carried out strictly in accordance with the government regulations and guidelines and observing the company’s own concern for the highest standards of safety,” Maruti Suzuki said in a statement on Wednesday.

The carmaker also said it has put in place a comprehensive standard operating procedure for dealerships across the country, some of which have already reopened.

“All our dealerships have put in place steps to ensure complete safety, hygiene and sanitization of all touchpoints,” Kenichi Ayukawa, managing director and chief executive officer of Maruti Suzuki, said in a separate statement on Wednesday.

“At the same time, not just our dealerships, but also our manufacturing facilities and service workshops are completely sanitized,” he added.

Naveen Soni, senior vice president of sales and services at Toyota Kirloskar, said it is carrying out preparatory activities first to ensure that its working environment is adequately safe for staff to return to work in stages.

“The challenge that lies ahead of us is the fact that for the auto sector to start production, it is necessary that our entire value chain starts operating,” Soni said in a statement on Tuesday.

“Our value chain consists not only of our suppliers but our dealers as well who are based in different parts of the country including cities that are still under severe lockdown,” he added.

Last Friday, the country’s three apex auto industry bodies representing their whole value chain issued a joint statement appealing to the government to allow all players to re-commence operations in “unison” so that their operations could function smoothly. They are the Federation of Automobile Dealers Associations (FADA), the Automotive Component Manufacturers Association of India, and the Society of Indian Automobile Manufacturers.

The stringent closure of activities and movements to contain the spread of the coronavirus pandemic in the country had completely knocked down sales to record zero for auto makers including Maruti Suzuki and Toyota Kirloskar in April.

India’s 40-day nationwide shutdown, which started on March 25, has been further extended generally till May 17. While the government is lifting bans to restart the severely damaged economy, it is doing so gradually and cautiously with guidelines for business establishments.

Reopening of activities are highly dependent on the safety status according to the level of infection in each district. They have been graded under zoning categories of green, orange and red, which is designated for high-risk hotspots.

Under relaxation rules, all industrial activities in rural areas are allowed to restart. As for urban places, activities in industrial estates, special economic zones and industrial townships can also resume operations but they must adhere to safety conditions to prevent any resurgence of coronavirus transmission.