Chinese Explosion Takes Toll On Automakers

Toyota Motor Corp. said more than 50 of its employees were injured by last Wednesday night’s explosions in the Chinese port of Tianjin that killed 56 people.

“We have now heard that over 50 employees who live in the surrounding area, including in company accommodation, have been injured,” Toyota said in a written statement.

Toyota said it was not aware of any employee deaths.

The explosions resulted in broken windows at two dealerships, one operated by FAW Toyota Motor Sales Co., Ltd., and one operated by GAC Toyota Motor Co., Ltd, Toyota said, adding that both dealerships were now temporarily closed.

The company said it was still verifying details of the exact number of employees injured and the extent of their injuries.

Global automakers including Volkswagen AG and Hyundai scrambled to assess damage to cars and facilities after two massive explosions rocked China’s largest auto import hub.

The blasts that ripped through a warehouse storing volatile chemicals in the northeastern city were so strong that they damaged buildings at least a mile away.

The blasts killed at least 56 people, including a dozen firefighters, state media said. About 700 people were injured.

French carmaker Renault SA said nearly 1,500 of its imported cars stored in a warehouse at the port had been burned.

Nearly 2,750 of the vehicles in harm’s way were Volkswagens, reports said. One of VW’s warehouses was located close to the site of the explosions.

In a company statement, Volkswagen said it did not yet have an official tally of how many vehicles were destroyed. While the Tianjin port is out of service and damaged vehicles are assessed, the German automaker will make deliveries via ports in Shanghai and Guangzhou, the company said.

“At this time, we have already begun evaluating the state of our vehicles in all storage facilities at the Port of Tianjin,” Volkswagen said in the statement. “Under no circumstances will any cars damaged in this terrible accident make it to market.”

Photographs from the scene showed rows of Beetles and other VW brand cars badly scorched by the explosion.

“We have a task force in the area to find out more and which is primarily concerned with the wellbeing of our employees,” a VW spokeswoman said.

Roughly 40 percent of cars imported to China pass through Tianjin’s port, or more than half a million units in 2014, according to the official Xinhua news agency. China imported $60.8 billion in cars last year, official data shows.

Subaru maker Fuji Heavy Industries Ltd said more than 100 cars that were imported from Japan and were awaiting customs clearance in a warehouse had been damaged by broken windows. The warehouse, which does not belong to Fuji Heavy, is about 1.2 miles from the blast site, it said.

Ford Motor Co., Nissan Motor Co. and Toyota also said they were checking their cars parked around the port.

South Korea’s Hyundai Motor Corp. and Kia Motors Corp. had a total of 4,000 cars near the blast site but did not have specific details on the extent of damage, the companies said.

BMW AG said it has two vehicle distribution centers near the port but the damage was unknown given the area had been cordoned off by authorities.

Mazda Motor Corp. said over 50 cars imported from Japan were also damaged, with peeling paint and scratches. One nearby showroom was shut after its windows shattered, it said.

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