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Mississippi seen as contender for Toyota-Mazda plant

By JACK WEATHERLY

The same day that workers at the Nissan North America plant in Canton voted strongly against unionizing, another Japanese automaker with Mississippi ties, Toyota, announced it would team up with Mazda Motor Corp. to build another assembly plant in the South.

A vote to join the United Auto Workers union would have sent a message to foreign automakers, which have turned to the South for manufacturing facilities and have basically avoided union organizing.

Toyota and Mazda announced Friday that they plan to spend $1.6 billion to jointly build the plant and create up to 4,000 jobs.

The plant will have an annual production capacity of about 300,000 vehicles, and will produce Toyota Corollas as well as a new Mazda crossover vehicle for the North American market.

» READ MORE: Toyota-Mazda partnership will benefit state, region

Toyota wouldn’t say where the plant would be built. But because the new plant will build the Corolla, “chances are it will be located near Toyota’s current Corolla plant in Mississippi to be close to parts supply companies. The companies expect the plant to begin operations by 2021,” Bloomberg reported.

Toyota said it changed its plan to make Corollas at a plant in Guanajuato, Mexico, now under construction, after reassessing the market. Instead it will produce Tacoma pickups there, Toyota President Akio Toyoda said Friday.

Mississippi Gov. Phil Bryant said Tuesday in an emailed that “we stand ready to grow our existing partnership and strengthen Mississippi’s standing as a global leader in automotive manufacturing.” The Toyota plant in Blue Springs employs about 1,500.

Toyota said it changed its plan to make Corollas at a plant in Guanajuato, Mexico, now under construction, after reassessing the market. Instead it will produce Tacoma pickups there, Toyota President Akio Toyoda said.

President Donald Trump had criticized Toyota and other automakers for taking auto production and jobs to Mexico, saying vehicles for the U.S. market should be built by U.S. workers. Toyoda denied that Trump’s views influenced his decision.

Trump welcomed the announcement in a tweet: “Toyota & Mazda to build a new $1.6B plant here in the U.S.A. and create 4K new American jobs. A great investment in American manufacturing!”

Locating the plant near Blue Springs would “enable the two to source parts from companies nearby that feed components to the Corolla. A head-start on a supplier network would be particularly attractive for Mazda, which doesn’t have a U.S. plant.

“We do have supply lines in the U.S. that are pretty extensive, particularly for the Corolla,” said Scott Vazin, a Toyota spokesman. “We hope these supply lines can be utilized for this new entity, because there are clearly some efficiencies in it.”

Toyota’s existing factory opened in 2011 as its sole U.S. assembly location for the Corolla. Roughly half the site the company acquired before breaking ground in 2007 is still vacant, with roads and sewers already in place awaiting further investment.

Bloomberg News and the Associated Press contributed to this report.

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