By Dennis Seid/NEMS Daily Journal
BLUE SPRINGS – In the nearly 18 months Toyota Motor Manufacturing Mississippi has been in production, the plant has been doing its part to meet continued strong demand for the Corolla.
Officials have long said annual production capacity at the plant is 150,000 vehicles, and TMMMS seems to be well on that pace.
Through the first three months of the year, it has built more than 41,000 vehicles.
“Yes, we are on track to meet capacity production,” said TMMMS spokeswoman Emily Holland. “As of Monday, we have produced over 177,800 Corollas (since the plant opened).”
Production at TMMMS officially began in October 2011.
Toyota Mississippi reached another milestone recently, too.
Since February, the plant has built more Corollas than Toyota’s other North American Corolla plant.
Through the end of March, Toyota Mississippi has built about 4,000 more vehicles than Toyota Motor Manufacturing Canada. At the same point a year ago, the Canadian plant had built nearly three times as many Corollas.
A big reason for the discrepancy last year was that the Blue Springs plant was just getting warmed up.
Since then, the 2,000 employees at Toyota Mississippi clearly have ramped up their efforts.
But Phil Rodi, vice president of manufacturing at Toyota Mississippi, said there’s another reason why TMMMS production has outpaced Toyota Canada.
“The change in production at our plant in Canada is temporary and was put in place to accommodate the transition of new paint equipment,” he said.
Both plants also are gearing up for a model change. The current 10th-generation Corolla has been around since 2006, and the redesigned Corolla will be introduced as a 2014 model-year vehicle. That means the plants will begin producing the new Corolla starting this fall.
Toyota officials gave little hint as to when the switch will be made on the assembly lines.
“Every model changes undergoes a short ramp-up period to ensure quality and safety standards are met,” Rodi said. “Production of the next generation Corolla will be no different.”
Despite its age, the current Corolla remains popular in the U.S. Though March, Toyota had sold 80,244 Corollas, up 17 percent from a year ago.