By Dennis Seid/NEMS Daily Journal
BLUE SPRINGS – A Japanese newspaper reported Sunday that Toyota will be opening its idled Blue Springs plant in 2011.
According to Reuters, the Tokyo Shimbun said Toyota will start operating the plant, which is slated to build the popular Prius Hybrid, as early as June 2011.
No Toyota officials or sources are named in the story, however. Toyota spokeswoman Barbara McDaniel told the NEMS Daily Journal newspaper Monday: “Nothing official has been determined. Consistent with what we’ve been saying, when market conditions allow, there will be an announced decision on start-up for Blue Springs.”
The Tokyo Shimbun newspaper said that Mississippi is “suffering” from a10.6 percent unemployment rate and that state officials have been “pressing Toyota to soon start the plant.”
In December 2008, amid a deepening recession and slumping global auto sales, Toyota said it was suspending indefinitely the completion of the Blue Springs plant.
The Blue Springs plant, officially dubbed Toyota Motor Manufacturing Mississippi, or TMMMS, was originally scheduled to open later this year.
Sunday’s Tokyo Shimbun story isn’t the first to speculate the plant’s opening.
In December, the Japanese business daily Nikkei said Toyota planned to resume work on TMMMS. It also said Toyota would build the Corolla, rather than the Prius.
But Toyota officials in the U.S. said the status of the plant had not changed
Officials could not be reached on Sunday.
The Blue Springs plant is all but complete. Officials have said finishing the 2-million-square-foot facility, installing equipment and training employees would take about 18 months before the first vehicle could roll off the line.