For region’s suppliers, many questions remain

By Carlie Kollath/NEMS Daily Journal

Throughout 2007 and 2008, seven companies announced they would supply the Toyota Motor Manufacturing Mississippi plant. Six are in north Mississippi.
The suppliers are Auto Parts Manufacturing Mississippi in Baldwyn, Toyota Boshoku in Itawamba County, Arvin Sango in Chester County (Tenn.), PK USA in Senatobia, Toyoda Gosei in Batesville, Vuteq in New Albany and Toyota Tsusho America in Blue Springs.
The Daily Journal caught up Thursday with three of the suppliers in Northeast Mississippi to see what Toyota’s decision means to them.

NEW ALBANY
Chris Spence, president of diversity with Vuteq’s New Albany plant, said he thinks Toyota’s announcement will be positive for the supplier, adding that the Corolla is a “great vehicle to be affiliated with.”
“Right now, at least something’s going to be happening,” he said. “It’s been a long wait.”
But, he said there are many unknowns right now.
“Announcing is the first step,” said Spence.
Next, he said Toyota will meet with the suppliers and outline what work will be needed. Because of the change in vehicles, Spence said the scope of work will change.
Things like skill sets and the number of employees may change, he said, based on Toyota’s needs. But he said Vuteq is capable of making parts for the Corolla. The company makes interior plastic parts and does glass assembly.
He said Vuteq has a building in New Albany, but it is not completed. He said it is enclosed and can be completed in time for Toyota’s estimated production-start date in fall 2011.
Spence said he expects Vuteq will know more about its plans in the next month.

ITAWAMBA COUNTY
Todd Sousa, a senior manager at Toyota Boshoku, said Thursday that Toyota has not made its sourcing decisions yet for the Corolla, which will be built in Blue Springs starting next year.
Toyota Boshoku had signed on as a Highlander supplier and then had transitioned to planning for the Prius when the vehicle changed.
Now that the vehicle has changed again, Toyota has to decide on its suppliers for the Corolla.
Boshoku, which has a facility in the Dorsey community in Itawamba County, is “anxiously awaiting” any decision, Sousa said. He has been told that the decision will be made in August or September.
“Our facility is there and we’re ready to supply Toyota when needed,” he said.
He said Boshoku makes seats for multiple vehicles, so the company has the skill set to handle the change to the Corolla.
“We’re capable of making the parts that go into that vehicle,” Sousa said.

BALDWYN
Auto Parts Manufacturing Mississippi, previously Toyota Auto Body, plans to do a lot of communicating with Toyota officials in the coming days and weeks.
Kiyoshi Tsuchiya, administrative general manager of APMM’s Baldwyn facility, said the plant is finished in Baldwyn and the paint shop equipment has been installed.
He said APMM emphasized the quick, just-in-time production process and it won’t be a problem to get the facility going in time to coincide with the main plant’s start date next year.
He is very enthusiastic about Toyota’s decision to build the Corolla in Blue Springs.
“This car is Toyota’s global car,” he said. “Making this car means we can have the opportunity to expand our business and have a relationship with other regions.”
However, APMM has the bulk of its hiring to do. As of Thursday, it had eight employees. Tsuchiya expects the APMM work force to grow to about 270.
He said the company will develop a hiring strategy and will announce its employment plans later.

Contact Carlie Kollath at (662) 678-1598 or carlie.kollath@djournal.com.