DENNIS SEID: Toyota expansion talk grows louder

By Dennis Seid/NEMS Daily Journal

We’ve crossed this bridge before, and we’ve worn a good groove over it: Toyota is expanding.
No, it’s not official. It’s not even unofficial.
But you’ve heard the talk at meetings, grocery stores, restaurants and church: “Did you hear Toyota is expanding its Blue Springs plant?”
After all, there are people in town. Contractors. People who build things. They’re snapping up hotel rooms and apartments. They’re staying for a long time to help with the expansion.
And, supposedly there are super-secret blueprints at the Toyota plant that only a few people have seen.
Soon, there will be helicopters flying in and trucks rolling in bringing new equipment.
We’ve heard it all before, and we’ll keep hearing about it.
In fact, we’ve heard for six years that Toyota Motor Manufacturing Mississippi will be getting bigger. It’s only inevitable.
But you won’t hear anyone at Toyota say anything about an expansion until they’re good and ready.
Here’s what we do know: Toyota Mississippi will build the next generation Corolla later this year. The plant will need to do some retooling to prepare for that process.
That could explain why there are “people” in town working at Toyota.
When we visited the plant in October to mark its first anniversary, we saw Toyota’s new assembly method that made the manufacturing process more efficient. And it was pointed out that there was room on the plant floor to add extra equipment if needed.
You see where this is going, right?
And yes, it’s long been said that an exact duplicate of the plant can be built on the Blue Springs site.
Toyota officials at every level have said that an expansion would be great, but it’s not their chief focus for now.
So let’s get this out of the way – an official statement from Toyota Mississippi spokeswoman Emily Holland when I broached the topic about a possible expansion:
“We are currently focusing on building the highest quality Corolla and continuing to strengthen the Toyota Mississippi workforce. We would be delighted to produce another model, but there are currently no plans for plant expansion,” she said.
Fair enough. It’s what they’ve been said in the past and what we expect them to say at this point.
But it is interesting to note that Bloomberg last week, citing Toyota sources, said the automaker was going to hold off on building additional plants for three years. Instead, the company will focus on capital investments in its current plants, the sources said.
And it should be noted that Toyota last year set records for production and sales in North Amerca. The automaker built 1.78 million vehicles in its North American plants, up 41 percent from 2011. Last year’s numbers beat the previous record of 1.72 million set in 2007.
Reading between the lines, that can only be a good thing when talk turns to any expansion at Toyota Mississippi.
Contact Business Editor Dennis Seid at dennis.seid@journalinc.com or (662) 678-1578.