By Dennis Seid/NEMS Daily Journal
Toyota is expected to announce Thursday its plans for its Blue Springs plant, which has been on hold since December 2008.
Media reports from Japan as well as the Associated Press say that Toyota Motor Corp. officials will detail plans to gear up the facility for production.
Japan’s top business daily newspaper, The Nikkei, said Toyota will also restart plans for plants in Brazil and China.
Sources told the Daily Journal that an announcement about Blue Springs will be made Thursday morning. A Toyota spokesperson declined comment.
Rumors have swirled for months that the nearly 2 million-square-foot facility along U.S. Highway 78 will build the popular Corolla sedan when production begins, rather than the Prius hybrid.
The Associated Press reported Toyota plans to bring the Mississippi factory onstream, possibly in mid-2011, according to the Nikkei. Originally slated to start operations this year, the facility will produce about 100,000 Corolla sedans a year, the paper said.
Reports in recent months in the Japanese media – downplayed by Toyota officials – said work on the plant would resume this summer and the Corolla would be built at TMMMS.
Both vehicles are built on the same platform.
The plant – officially dubbed Toyota Motor Manufacturing Mississippi – was originally scheduled to build the Highlander SUV starting in late 2009, but the automaker said in July 2008 that it would produce the Prius instead.
But in December 2008, the company, citing the severe economic downturn that also pummeled global auto sales, said it would delay the plant indefinitely.
In the past, they have said Toyota would restart work at TMMMS when market conditions improved.
The automaker announced on Feb. 27, 2007, that it was building its eighth North American assembly plant in Blue Springs, located about 15 miles northwest of Tupelo.
Toyota said it would invest $1.3 billion in the facility and employ some 2,000 workers. Suppliers would add another 2,000 workers.
So far, Toyota has invested some $300 million of its own money into the project, with the state putting in another couple hundred million on infrastructure.
Officials have said in the past that getting the plant operational and producing vehicles would take 12 to 18 months.
TMMMS is all but complete, with only the installation of equipment and training of employees remaining. The plant currently has about 60 workers.
Read more in Thursday’s NEMS Daily Journal.