By Dennis Seid/NEMS Daily Journal
BLUE SPRINGS – Having already produced test cars at Toyota Motor Manufacturing Mississippi, the Japanese automaker is set to roll out its first consumer-ready vehicles next month.
In announcing that its North American production was back to normal levels on Tuesday, Toyota also said it was ready to open its 14th North American plant – TMMMS in Blue Springs – in October.
Company officials have long said the 2 million-square-foot facility would open this fall, but have steadfastly declined to give an exact date.
Emily Holland, the external affairs spokeswoman for Toyota Mississippi, confirmed Wednesday the plant is on track to start building Corollas next month. But the public won’t get a chance to see them quite yet.
“We remain on schedule to begin Corolla production in October,” Holland said. “We will celebrate the first vehicle produced at our plant in Blue Springs, and recognize the hard work and dedication of our team members, with a line-off ceremony after we start production.”
Two senior Toyota executives on Tuesday mentioned the company’s plans for TMMMS.
Steve St. Angelo, Toyota’s executive vice president for North American engineering and manufacturing who also serves as chairman of TMMMS, said Tuesday that production would begin next month.
Also, Bob Carter, Toyota Motor Sales group vice president and Toyota division general manager, said at a ceremony marking the introduction of the new Camry sedan, “There are 13 Toyota automotive plants in North America and a 14th scheduled to start Corolla production in Mississippi this October.”
As of Monday, Toyota Mississippi employed more than 1,000 workers, with another 575 set to begin by the end of the year, Holland said.
Of those employed, 90 percent are from Mississippi, and 42 percent are from Pontotoc, Union and Lee counties.
When the plant is fully operational sometime next year, TMMMS is expected to employ 2,000 workers and will be capable of producing 150,000 vehicles a year.
• February 2007 – Announcement of the $1.3 billion plant at Blue Springs.
• December 2008 – Toyota says it still intends to complete the plant but its opening will be delayed until economic conditions improve.
• June 2010 – Work resumes at Blue Springs, with production scheduled for fall 2011.
• October 2011 – Production of the Corolla to start.