EDITORIAL: Waiting on Toyota

By NEMS Daily Journal

Given the stake that Northeast Mississippi has in the success of Toyota, unease at the company’s current troubles is understandable.
So, too, is a degree of resentment at the constant barrage of news coverage the story of Toyota’s safety-related recalls has received. It’s been the top running national news story for the better part of a month now, eclipsing even the health care reform debate.
While some of the coverage may have been overdone, and a measure of the congressional antagonism toward Toyota politically motivated, there is no getting around the fact that this is a big news story. When the world’s leading automotive company – arguably its premier manufacturing company of any kind – runs into the problems Toyota has, it’s going to get headlines, nationally and internationally, especially in this age of the 24/7 news cycle.
There’s no doubt that the company has some serious self-inflicted wounds. That hardly means it’s in dire straits, however.
Toyota will survive this crisis and, if the company’s history is any indicator, learn from it and put that knowledge to good use.
Still, a degree of anxiety is in the air about the future of the plant in Blue Springs. One of the reasons is the company’s self-analysis that the quality control problems were in part the result of growing too big, too fast in North America. As one of the Toyota experts interviewed in Sunday’s Journal by Business Editor Dennis Seid suggested, that doesn’t give much comfort to Northeast Mississippians as we wait for Toyota to decide when the time is right to ramp up production here.
Yet state and local economic developers and elected officials remain convinced that Toyota will keep its commitment to building cars in Northeast Mississippi, as the Journal article reported. The only question is when.
We continue to share that view, whatever the indications to the contrary.
Toyota, in spite of its current troubles, is not just another company. It has a long history of adaptation, innovation and resiliency. Those culturally ingrained qualities don’t disappear overnight.
Toyota is also, as local officials have noted, a company that has always kept its commitments. Even now, the first installment of a $50 million pledge to school systems in the three PUL Alliance counties is in process.
No one can predict with certainty what Toyota will do when, and Toyota has other things on its corporate plate at the moment. Patience is in order, and of course other economic development pursuits must be under way in the region, as would have been the case even if the Toyota opening were on schedule.
But here’s one certainty worth repeating: It’s way too early to write off either the company or its future in Northeast Mississippi.