A fire has forced a Toyota group factory to suspend production of the hybrid Prius sedan and four other models for about one week, causing a delay in the making of 5,000 vehicles, Toyota Auto Body Co. told Kyodo News on Tuesday.

The company, based in Kariya, Aichi Prefecture, said the factory in the city's Fujimatsu area will return to normal operations next Monday morning.

The fire broke out in a drying furnace at around 6 p.m. Monday, burning some 75 square meters of the factory, the company said. The furnace is used to dry vehicle bodies after they have been painted.

The fire started while the furnace was operating. It was put out in about four hours, the company said. No one was injured.

The factory manufactures about 1,000 units of the five models a day, including the Prius gasoline-electric car and the Estima [Previa] minivan.

After the fire was put out, Toyota Auto Body stopped the production line.

The company said it will recover the expected delay in vehicle production by the end of December by making employees work extra hours on Saturdays and other methods.

Police are investigating the cause of the fire, the company said. Police sources said a conveyer belt appears to have rubbed a nearby device, generating excessive heat, Kyodo News added.

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