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Is Toyota plant going to be put on hold again?

By Wally Northway

It could be that production at the Toyota manufacturing plant in Blue Springs is going to be delayed — again — this time due to the March 14 earthquake/tsunami in Japan.

Yesterday, Toyota released a statement saying it had “communicated to team members, associates and dealers (in North America) that some production interruptions in North America are likely.”

Whether this will affect the plant in North Mississippi, which is slated to begin producing Corollas this fall, is unclear.

“It’s too early to predict location or duration,” Toyota said.

Toyota tried to temper the bad news by pointing out that most of the parts for vehicles built here are produced in North America.

Toyota said, “Currently, the greatest majority of parts for our North America-built vehicles come from approximately 500 suppliers in North America. Also, we continue to receive parts from Japan that were already in the pipeline, limiting the immediate impact. We will continue to work closely with suppliers in North America and Japan to minimize any disruptions to Toyota’s overall North American operations.”

Earlier Mike Goss, general manager for external affairs for Toyota’s North American manufacturing headquarters in Kentucky, told the Mississippi Business Journal that a lot of the suppliers for North American-built Corollas are already in the U.S.

“A lot are in Mississippi,” he added. “There is nothing right now that would indicate that a delay in opening Blue Springs would be necessary.”

If the opening of the Blue Springs plant is pushed back, it would represent the third delay since it was announced four years ago. The facility was originally scheduled to be in operation in late 2008, but the economy forced Toyota to move the date back twice.

Last summer, Toyota announced it was targeting this fall for start-up. The hiring and workforce development for the plant started last fall.

The plant is complete, and Toyota has been installing equipment and machinery since last year.

Emily Holland, spokesperson for Toyota Motor Manufacturing Mississippi, previously told the MBJ, “We are currently installing equipment, and the earthquake has not directly impacted (Blue Springs) as we are not yet in production. Once we begin production, we will receive some parts from Japan, but we cannot speculate as to whether the current situation will affect our production until we have a better understanding of the extent of the damage in Japan. Our corporate office is monitoring the situation daily.”

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