By Dennis Seid
TUPELO – Toyota Motor Manufacturing Mississippi can build up to 170,000 Corolla sedans a year, so it won’t miss a few.
The plant donated six test vehicles Tuesday to career and technology centers in Lee, Pontotoc and Union counties, and another one to the Tupelo Automobile Museum.
The test cars, a mix of the 10th-generation Corolla and the 11th-generation model that came out last summer, will be used by the schools for the students to learn more about automotive technology.
Tupelo Career-Technical Center Director Evet Topp said the two cars she accepted are greatly appreciated.
“Students will be developing a great skill-set working on a new car like this,” she said. “We had a Toyota donated a year or so ago by a third party, but this is the first time we’ve had something directly from the company.”
It’s Toyota Mississippi’s second donation in as many years. In February 2013, it donated 29 cars worth about $400,000 to area emergency management agencies and community colleges.
Kirk Manley, the plant’s general manager of production control, said Tuesday’s donation was to help younger students learn the latest in automotive technology, perhaps providing a spark to a future Toyota team member.
“These cars have been put together and taken apart by our team members so that they know them from top to bottom,” Manley said. “We hope that the kids will be taught the highly technical skills this area needs to stay competitive and grow for the future.”
The cars aren’t road-worthy and can’t be sold, so they were loaded onto trucks to be taken to the respective schools, who each received two Corollas.
For Pontotoc Ridge Career and Technology Center director Phil Ryan, the gift was a godsend.
“The last car we got was a 2001 Camaro,” he said. “They’re completely different systems today.”
New Albany/Union County School of Career and Technology Education Director John Ferrell also said students there would be able to take advantage of the new cars to learn more.
That’s what Manley and Toyota officials hope will be the result as the automaker and its suppliers continue to look for workers.
“We want to make this a regular event,” he said.
He also said other career and technology schools in the region, as well as community colleges and universities, would be included in vehicle donations in the future.