Toyota gives area groups $400,000 worth of Corollas

By Sarah Robinson/NEMS Daily Journal

BLUE SPRINGS – Toyota Motor Manufacturing Mississippi donated 29 cars on Thursday to organizations across Northeast Mississippi.
Itawamba Community College and Northeast Mississippi Community College each got seven vehicles, and emergency management agencies in Pontotoc, Union and Lee counties each received five.
The cars, with a total value of $403,000, are intended to serve as training vehicles for schools and first responders.
Brad Crowder, director of the automotive technology program at ICC, said the cars will be used to train students on the latest in automotive technology.
“The 2011 (models) will really help with diagnostic training for students,” Crowder said.
Phil Rodi, vice president of manufacturing at TMMMS, said the donation was part of the Japanese automaker’s nationwide program to donate cars used for teaching. The vehicles are drivable, but aren’t certified to go on roads.
“These cars have been used for training for our team members,” he said. “We build, rebuild. … it’s a lot of repetition and skills training. We’re also training for inspection. We have a lot of people who have never built a car before, so this is valuable training.”
Students at ICC will have the opportunity to practice disassembly and assembly of features such as the hands-free audio that their current cars don’t have.
“Toyota is continuing to set a great example for corporate citizenship” in the region, said ICC President David Cole, who lauded the manufacturer’s commitment to invest in Northeast Mississippi.
First responders – particularly emergency management agencies and fire departments – will use their Corollas to train for automobile accidents.
“We do a lot of extrication training, but most of our cars are old,” said Pontotoc Fire Chief Lance Martin.
He said it is beneficial for his division’s 29 firemen to be able to train on cars with newer types of steel.
Martin also said he’ll be able to use the cars for educating youth. Before prom night, he plans to bring out a group of seniors to demonstrate how deadly automobile accidents can be, especially when texting and driving.
Rickey Jaggers from Pontotoc County’s EMA anticipates being able to train volunteers on advanced airbags. The new placement of airbags in rear and side panels can make rescues more dangerous for those unfamiliar with the enhanced safety features.
“We don’t get to train with newer cars very often, and we wouldn’t have been able to do this without Toyota’s help,” said Curt Clayton of Union County EMA.
Dennis Seid contributed to this report.
sarah.robinson@journalinc.com