Toyota plant boosts production, readies for export

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By Dennis Seid

Daily Journal

BLUE SPRINGS – The 2,500 workers – team members as they’re called – at Toyota Motor Manufacturing Mississippi have gotten into a groove, building Corollas at a faster pace than ever.

And they have to, with demand still great for the world’s best-selling car. Sales through October are up 5 percent compared to a year earlier.

“We’re making as many as we can, which is a good problem to have,” said Kevin Burgess, Toyota Mississippi’s assistant manager of human resources and general affairs.

Toyota also builds Corollas at a plant in Canada.

The Blue Springs plant, which rolled off its first vehicle in October 2011, has built more than 250,000 of the world’s best-selling car.

Toyota has sold more than 40 million Corollas since its introduction in 1966.

Officials with the plant took media members on an extended tour of the plant for the first time on Tuesday. Large-scale tours likely will not happen because the plant’s footprint is smaller than other Toyota facilities.

In July, TMMMS began building the 11th-generation Corolla, an effort that had been planned even before the 2 million-square-foot facility had built its first car.

And in a few months, they’ll be exporting Corollas for the first time, to 18 countries in Latin America and the Caribbean.

The plant now is building a new Corolla every 77 seconds – enough to build more than 160,000 vehicles a year. That’s 10,000 more than originally planned for the plant, but the need is there since Toyota expects to export some 7,500 Corollas next year.

“We’ve made the modifications necessary for those markets,” said Walter Burroughs, the assistant manager of quality control engineering. “Every country has different regulations we have to follow.”

The exports begin in April. Toyota last year set a company record in the U.S. with more than 124,000 U.S.-built vehicles exported to 21 global markets, a 45 percent increase over 2011.

In addition to its new export role, Toyota Mississippi is the sole supplier for all 2014 Corolla service parts sold in North America, and soon, in South America. Those parts include the doors, hoods and fenders.

Toyota employs 2,000 workers at TMMMS, while on-site suppliers add another 500. Another 1,500 work for seven other suppliers to the plant.

dennis.seid@journalinc.com