A Hopeful Sign: Toyota Will Restart Construction on Mississippi Plant
Toyota Motor (TM) said Thursday it is resuming construction of a plant in Mississippi that will soon hire some 2,000 workers and supply the U.S. market with compact Corolla sedans by the fall of 2011.
Toyota had halted completion of the plant, which was set to open this year, after the U.S. economy entered recession in 2008, slowing consumer demand for new cars and trucks. More recently, Toyota's sales have also been affected by massive recalls to fix problems such as sticky accelerators and problematic braking systems. Toyota has recalled some 9 million vehicles worldwide since October.
The company needed to fully utilize its existing facilities as the economy slowed, explained Yoshimi Inaba, president and chief operating officer of Toyota Motor North America. "Toyota remains committed to making vehicles where we sell them and to maintaining a substantial manufacturing presence in North America," Inaba said in a statement.
Closure of Joint-Venture Facility
By beginning production with Corollas, Toyota said nearly all of these models for the U.S. market will soon be built in North America. Production of U.S.-destined Corollas had shifted to Japan since April, following the closure of the New United Motor Manufacturing (NUMMI) plant in Fremont, Calif. That facility was a joint venture between Toyota and General Motors. But GM pulled out after filing for bankruptcy last year.
The new Mississippi plant, located in Blue Springs, about 200 miles northeast of Jackson, the state capital, is almost complete, with about 60 administrative staff already occupying the building, Toyota said. Remaining construction mostly involves equipment installation.
Details about hiring at the plant, which will churn out about 100,000 Corolla sedans a year, will be released later this summer, the company said.
Toyota is also resuming construction of a plant in Brazil, the Nikkei business daily reported, according to Reuters. The Brazil plant, which would be Toyota's second in the South American country, would produce small vehicles for the local market, with annual output of just over 100,000 units. According to the Nikkei, operations may start next year.