Author: Blue Springs plant will open – eventually

TUPELO – Pragmatism helped Toyota become successful, and author David Magee says it’s pragmatism that will allow the Japanese automaker to open its Blue Springs production plant eventually.
Magee, who wrote “How Toyota Became No. 1,” said new leadership at Toyota has turned it into a “smaller company” that is being forced to look inward as it looks ahead to the future.
It’s how Toyota grew in the first place, and Magee said the automaker in many ways is returning to its roots.
So, Toyota is reviewing all of its options before deciding what to do with Blue Springs – as well as its other operations, Magee said.
“I think Blue Springs will open sooner or later,” he said. “But will it be anytime soon? No. I think it likely will be three or four years.”
Magee bases his comments on discussions he’s had with many industry insiders, including some from Toyota.
In December, Toyota said it would delay indefinitely the opening of the Blue Springs plant, which was scheduled to begin producing the Prius Hybrid late next year.
The automaker said slumping demand and an uncertain economy were the main reasons for the delay.
A less publicized factor was – and is – Toyota’s difficulty in getting the batteries for the Prius. “It has become a major issue,” Magee said.
In fact, last month, Toyota officials in Japan said battery shortages could stretch into next year.
While Toyota can make about 500,000 Prius annually, its battery supplier, Panasonic EV Energy, can’t produce enough of the nickel-metal hydride used in the Prius, plus other Toyota and Lexus hybrid models.
To help meet that demand, Panasonic is opening another plant next year that will add another 200,000 batteries.
Magee predicted that Toyota eventually will build the Prius in the U.S., whether it’s in Blue Springs or elsewhere.
“It’s significant that Toyota recently announced it was expanding the Prius name to other vehicles,” Magee said. “So Blue Springs may be building a Prius in the future after all. It may not be THE Prius, but it will be producing some vehicle. It’s just a matter of when.”

Contact Dennis Seid at (662) 678-1578 or dennis.seid@djournal.com.

Watch for a video interview of Magee here at NEMS360.com soon.

Dennis Seid/NEMS Daily Journal