If you didn’t hear, the two Japanese automakers, which signed an agreement two years ago to work closer together, said they would build a $1.6 billion assembly plant in the United States that would employ as many as 4,000 workers.
Toyota also said it would build the Corolla at that new plant.
That, of course, brought some concern, since the Toyota Mississippi plant in Blue Springs has been cranking them out since late 2011. What will happen to the plant that Toyota has invested nearly $1 billion?
Apparently, nothing negative as far as we can tell.
If you’ll recall, Toyota had already planned to build the Corolla in Mexico, shifting production from a plant in Canada. With the joint-venture news, that production will come to the U.S. instead of Mexico.
Toyota Mississippi was built to produce 170,000 vehicles a year. It’s built as many as 190,000 cars. For the past four years, Toyota has sold at least 300,000 vehicles, which means Blue Springs couldn’t build enough to meet demand anyway.
In a press release, Toyota said the Mazda agreement would also mean they would work together in developing electric vehicles, as well as “jointly develop connected-car technology, collaborate on advanced safety technologies and expand complementary products.”
The new plant, to open somewhere in 2021, will be able to build some 300,000 cars. Half of production will be devoted to Corolla, while the other half will build a Mazda crossover vehicle of some kind.
Toyota President Akio Toyoda said: “The greatest fruit of our partnership with Mazda is that we have found a new partner who truly loves cars. It has also sparked Toyota’s competitive spirit, increasing our sense of not wanting to be bested by Mazda. This is a partnership in which those who are passionate about cars will work together to make ever-better cars. It is also the realization of our desire to never let cars become commodities.”
Mazda, President and CEO Masamichi Kogai said: “Nothing would please me more than if, through this alliance, we can help to energize the auto industry and create more car fans by bringing together two competitive spirits to spur each other on, leading to innovations and fostering talent and leaders.”
Toyota Mississippi leaders, said it’s pretty much business as usual at the plant. They know the decision of where the new plant will be built will be made by those at a far-higher pay grade. All they can do is continue to produce high-quality vehicles every 71 seconds or so.
Gov. Phil Bryant said the state is willing to help grow its existing partnership with Toyota. In other words, we’ll work with you to land another plant here.
It’s not like Toyota doesn’t know the capabilities of the plant. For one thing, it was the fastest in company history to reach 500,000 cars. As CDF President and CEO David Rumbarger said, the Blue Springs plant is a “proven commodity” and Toyota knows its capabilities.
Imagine if that long-talked about second-phase expansion at Toyota Mississippi was this Toyota-Mazda joint venture? Think of the possibilities.
Mazda, of course, will have a say-so in where the plant goes. But you can be assured that Northeast Mississippi and state economic development leaders will do what they can to convince them like they did Toyota 10 years ago.
Contact Dennis Seid at (662) 678-1578 or email@example.com. On Twitter: @dennisseid