By Dennis Seid/NEMS Daily Journal
TUPELO – Five months after starting production and just weeks after starting its second production line shift, Toyota Motor Manufacturing Mississippi is making progress toward full capacity.
David Copenhaver, vice president of administration for the Blue Springs plant, said the facility eventually will be able to roll out 150,000 Corolla sedans a year.
While Copenhaver declined to reveal how many cars the plant is making now, he said steady progress was being made.
“Things are going well,” he said while speaking at the Kiwanis Club on Friday. “People work hard at the plant.”
The plant now employs just under 2,000 workers, or team members as the Japanese automaker calls them.
At full production – expected later this year – those team members will make more than 600 vehicles a day. The plant is in production mode 244 days a year, Copenhaver said.
In addition to updating club members on what was happening at the Blue Springs plant, he said Toyota was going to be busy this year.
“We’re rolling out a new or updated vehicle every 19 days this year,” he said. “By the end of 2013, we’ll have 20 new products.”
The next-generation Corolla is expected to be introduced next year, auto industry experts have said. The vehicle is the world’s best-selling car in history, with more than 35 million sold. It also is among the top 10 sellers in the U.S.
Copenhaver also said Toyota Mississippi has a five-year plan to become the safest plant in the country. Daily and weekly meetings with key personnel keep safety top of mind, he said.
“Safety is our top value, not our top priority,” he said. “Priorities can change.”
Finally, Copenhaver noted the plant receives 92 semi-trucks worth of parts every day to build the Corollas. Seven key suppliers in the area contribute to that total, but still, 30 percent of parts are imported.
He said the number of suppliers will grow as demand for the Corolla increases. Former Mississippi Gov. Haley Barbour has said additional suppliers would locate in the state once the next-generation model is introduced.