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Prius not coming to Blue Springs?

BLUE SPRINGS — A Toyota executive told a manufacturing conference in Birmingham yesterday that the company’s plant in Blue Springs might not build the wildly popular Prius hybrid whenever it opens. The plant’s opening has been delayed indefinitely. Toyota has said it won’t begin operation until conditions in the automotive market improve.

Steve St. Angelo, senior vice president of Toyota Motor Engineering and Manufacturing North America, said at the Automotive News Manufacturing Conference that the company is “very committed to” the Blue Springs plant, according to Automotive News. St. Angelo acknowledged, though, that there is no guarantee the Prius will be built in Mississippi.

“We’re looking at our whole portfolio and asking which products it makes sense to build or not build in North America,” St. Angelo said. He added that the Prius could be built at another North American plant, with the Blue Springs plant producing another vehicle.

Whatever vehicle Blue Springs produces, St. Angelo said, operations at the plant would not go forward “until we understand exactly what we’re going to build in the United States.”

If the Prius is built elsewhere, it will mark the second time Toyota has switched the Blue Springs vehicle since the company announced it early 2007 that it was building a facility in North Mississippi. The plant was originally set to product the Highlander crossover sport-utility vehicle. Those plans changed last summer, when Toyota said the Prius would be made in Mississippi.

A spokesperson for Toyota Motor Manufacturing Mississippi, and one for Three Rivers Planning and Development District, did not immediately return phone calls seeking comment.

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