Toyota Motor Corp President Akio Toyoda said on Friday higher wages among Chinese factory workers would create a new class of consumers, and that the trend therefore had both good and bad elements.
The experience of the past 100 years shows that auto workers become auto consumers also, Toyoda told a group of U.S.-based reporters. This has both good and bad elements. A wage increase is not necessarily bad if properly managed.
Toyota and domestic rival Honda Motor Co have been the main victims of strikes over the past few months at Chinese factories of affiliated parts makers, with workers demanding higher pay and better working conditions. Both car makers were forced to suspend production in China to varying degrees due to supply shortages caused by the strikes.
In a fresh blow, one of Honda's four car factories in China partially halted production on Wednesday and Thursday after a few dozen of the plant's 1,000 employees refused to return to work. It marked the first known direct disruption at a car assembly plant in China caused by worker discontent.
Asked about the incident, Toyota Executive Vice President Shinichi Sasaki said Japanese automakers may have to correct their wage levels in China if they are found to be out of line with the industry.
In late June, Toyota halted production at a plant in Guangdong province for several days because of the shortage of fuel injection equipment and other parts from a unit of Denso Corp, in which it is the top shareholder.
Many auto executives have said Chinese workers' desire for higher wages was natural given the country's rapid economic growth.
(Writing by Chang-Ran Kim)