Archive

Archive for the ‘Toyota’ Category

Speed sues Hosemann to keep eminent domain off ballot (Updated)

June 3rd, 2011 No comments

Mississippi Development Authority interim executive director Leland Speed has sued Secretary of State Delbert Hosemann, in an attempt to keep the eminent domain petition off November’s ballot.

If you’ll recall, the petition seeks to prevent the taking of private land for private development. It keeps in place the state’s authority to seize private land for public-use projects, like streets or bridges.

Nearly 120,000 people signed petitions to get the issue on the ballot. Hosemann certified the results last year.

The Mississippi Development Authority and Gov. Haley Barbour were adamantly against the notion of eliminating the state’s authority to use eminent domain for private economic development. Barbour and Gray Swoope, Speed’s successor at MDA, warned that projects like Toyota wouldn’t be in Mississippi if the law were changed.

Following a failure to change the law in the Legislature, a petition drive led by the Mississipi Farm Bureau Federation commenced, and the issue was set for the November ballot, until Thursday afternoon.

A hearing on the matter is scheduled for July 25 in Hinds County Circuit Court.

Pamela Weaver, spokesperson for Hosemann, just told Magnolia Marketplace that he would not comment beyond a statement, in which he said he intended to follow state law and place the initiative on the ballot, unless otherwise ordered by the Mississippi Supreme Court.

We’ve left a message on the cell phone of an MDA spokesperson, which wasn’t immediately returned.

For what it’s worth, Magnolia Marketplace several months ago polled the major contenders in the governor’s race — Phil Bryant, Dave Dennis, Bill Luckett, Johnny Dupree and Hudson Holliday — and they were of one mind: Eminent domain should be employed only for projects of direct public use, and that doesn’t include private economic development. Bryant, Dennis and Holliday each signed the petition to get the initiative on the ballot.

If and when we hear something from the MDA, we’ll post it. Rest assured, though: This is going to be a fight.

UPDATE: MDA spokesperson Melissa Medley just returned our call. She said that agency would have no comment on Speed’s lawsuit since he filed it as an individual, and not in his official capacity as interim executive director of the MDA.

We just got off the phone with Speed’s assistant, who said he was out of town and wouldn’t return until Monday around lunchtime. We’ll try to catch up with him then.

Toyota reveals production schedule; Blue Springs still on track for fall opening

April 25th, 2011 No comments

Lost in the Easter weekend shuffle was a pretty interesting nugget from Toyota about its production schedule in Japan and North America in the wake of the earthquake and tsunami.

Very early Friday morning — specifically, 1 a.m. Mississippi time — the company made known its plans to deal with the production issues it has experienced the past two months or so.

Here’s the gist, according to a Toyota press release: New vehicle production will begin to get back to pre-disaster levels as early as July in Japan, and in August in North America. By November and December, production should be back to normal here and overseas.

Obviously, you need to apply the best-laid-plans theory to that. There are a million different things that could happen between now and then that could throw the whole situation into another round of chaos.

From the beginning, stateside Toyota officials have maintained that Blue Springs, scheduled to begin making Corollas this fall, would not be affected by what’s happened in Japan. About 20 percent of the parts Blue Springs workers will use to make the Corolla come from Japan.

The latest production schedule does not change that, according to a Blue Springs spokesperson.

The current situation is having no impact on Toyota Mississippi’s construction progress or the planned start of production this fall,” Emily Holland wrote in an email Monday morning. “We are on schedule and looking forward to rolling a car off the line in a few months.”

Again, apply the best-laid-plans theory. In the three years Magnolia Marketplace has covered Toyota, it’s been our experience that the company keeps a stiff upper lip in situations like this, right up to the announcement to the contrary (the original delay of the plant’s opening springs to mind as a good example). We’re not saying that will happen here. In fact, everything points toward it not happening.

Just something we’ll be keeping an eye on over the summer.

Will the Japan disaster affect Toyota’s Blue Springs plant? Let’s find out (Updated)

March 14th, 2011 No comments

While it’s certainly not the most important issue, Toyota announced late Sunday night that it has suspended production at all of its Japanese facilities in the wake of the earthquake and ensuing tsunamis.

Toyota said in a press release that it had received no reports of major injuries at any of its Japanese facilities, including its Tokyo headquarters.

The suspended production, though, got us to wondering if all of this would have any sort of effect on the Blue Springs plant, which is scheduled to start making Corollas this fall. We have calls into Toyota’s North American headquarters. When we hear back, we’ll tell what we know. Stay tuned.

UPDATE: We just got off the phone with Barbara McDaniel, Toyota’s external affairs manager for its Southeast operations. “The short answer is no,” she said, referring to the possibility that the shutdown in Japan could push back or otherwise delay the opening of the Blue Springs plant. “The production stoppage in Japan will have no impact on Blue Springs at this point. All of our other North American facilities are running on schedule.”

Obviously, this will be something to watch, as Japan begins its recovery. And watch we will.

Corollas not on Toyota’s latest recall list

October 21st, 2010 4 comments

A lot of folks lost a lot when that oil well in the Gulf of Mexico started gushing.

If there were a winner, it was Toyota. Just before the well blew Toyota was the hottest news around, and it wasn’t because everybody liked Camrys.

Rather, the company was being excoriated by consumers, industry analysts, even Congress for what was considered its less-than-ideal response to a wave of problems with its vehicles, most of them to do with sudden unintended acceleration. So when the Gulf started filling with oil, Toyota’s PR nightmare was replaced with BP’s.

Toyota recall news returned today, when the company announced that it was issuing recalls for several of its Lexus models and its Avalon because of problems with their brake fluid and fuel pumps. Nearly 750,000 cars in the U.S. and 600,000 in Japan are affected.

The good news: The Corolla, the compact sedan Blue Springs workers will begin producing next year, is not on the list. The bad news: This latest recall brings to 10 million the total number of vehicles Toyota has recalled in the past year, including 1.33 million Corollas in August due to concerns over their engines stalling.

This could be an illustration of Toyota being overly cautious. Or it could be a legitimate recall. Either way, Toyota seems determined not to let this recall issue eat it up like it did last spring.

Eminent domain sure to be hot campaign topic

September 14th, 2010 25 comments

Mississippi Farm Bureau President David Waide has told a couple Mississippi media outlets the past few days that supporters of an eminent domain initiative are getting really close to gathering enough signatures to put the issue on the 2011 ballot.

With Waide telling a newspaper in Tupelo that enough signatures have been gleaned from three of the four required Congressional districts, it would be a surprise at this point if organizers did not meet the Oct. 6 deadline to submit their documents to the secretary of state’s office.

The notion that government can use eminent domain to benefit a private enterprise is one of the most contentious political issues Magnolia Marketplace has covered. It is a near certainty that it will be a major talking point for statewide candidates next year.

The most interesting dynamic will likely play out on the Republican side of the field. Lt. Gov. Phil Bryant, who will run for governor in 2011, did not strongly commit one way or another on the issue during the 2009 session, when the Senate narrowly upheld Gov. Barbour’s veto of a bill that would have restricted the use of eminent domain to projects of public interest, like roads and utilities. It would have been really interesting if the sustain/override vote in the Senate would have required Bryant to break a tie. He’s probably glad it didn’t.

Barbour spent many hours and a lot of energy lobbying lawmakers after he vetoed the legislation, which originally passed both chambers easily. It didn’t garner a single nay in the Senate, clearing that body 52-0. The crux of Barbour’s argument was that things like Toyota and Nissan would not be here if the state were not allowed to use eminent domain during the development of each.

Waide told the Mississippi Business Journal earlier in the summer that he expected enough signatures to arrive some time in September, and that timeline looks like it will be met. Voters will most likely decide the issue next fall. This is one of those issues where candidates will have to go all in or all out. There is no comfortable middle ground. The landowners’ rights lobby and economic development groups both have deep pockets and big voting blocs. Alienating either is never a good campaign strategy, so candidates have a tough decision to make.

The Viking has had a good couple weeks (updated)

September 3rd, 2010 No comments

Opinions and observations to kick off the long weekend …

Randy Watkins, Viking Classic boss, fine Ole Miss man and one of Magnolia Marketplace’s favorite people, had a double-shot of good news recently.

First, the PGA Tour announced in late August that it was renewing The Viking Classic for an additional year, guaranteeing the tournament would be played at Annandale in Madison at least through 2011. We did a story earlier in the summer about the contract between the Tour and the Viking expiring after this year, and most everybody we talked to was optimistic that the relationship between the two would continue. So while it’s  not much of a surprise, it still has to be a relief for Watkins and other Viking organizers.

Then, earlier this week, Viking Range announced that Emeril Lagasse would do two cooking demonstrations at the tournament. The Viking has had some fairly famous celebrity chefs at past tournaments, but none with the name recognition and drawing power of Emeril. You can purchase tickets for the tournament and/or Emeril’s cooking demos at vikingclassic.com. If you plan to be in town the last weekend of September, you should do just that.

The Mississippi Department of Employment Security announced late yesterday afternoon that it had received its 10,000th application related to the Toyota plant in Blue Springs. The agency says 8,700 of those 10,000 are from Mississippians. The rest come from 36 states across the U.S. MDES is helping Toyota fill 1,350 of the 2,000 jobs at the facility, so some HR person has a pile of paper work on their desk, and it’s only getting bigger. Let’s hope they move faster — and exercise a little more common sense — than the NCAA did and does.

Enjoy your Labor Day, and be safe.

URGENT UPDATE: Remember what we said about the NCAA in the above paragraph? Disregard. Jeremiah Masoli can play football for Ole Miss this year. The NCAA is a fair-minded, sense-driven organization.

Want to work at Toyota? Get in line

September 1st, 2010 1 comment

Nine days ago, when Toyota and Gov. Haley Barbour and the Mississippi Development Authority released the protocol the car company would use to hire its production workers at Blue Springs, the initial response from job-seekers was quick and heavy.

That first day, more than 600 folks filled out applications. The pace has obviously quickened.

Through Monday, 8,736 applications have been made for the 1,350 jobs the Mississippi Department of Employment Security is helping Toyota fill. That’s according to the MDES.

The average number of applications made per day the first week is 1,248.

That’s serious interest, and goes to show that Northeast Mississippi sure could use the jobs.

Toyota officially kicks off hiring process today

August 23rd, 2010 10 comments

Toyota and Gov. Haley Barbour announced just a few minutes ago that the company has started the process of hiring the 2,000 people who will eventually work at the Blue Springs facility.

The news is not a surprise, considering Toyota and Barbour said that last week they’d  have details about the hiring cycle today.

So here they are:

Toyota Motor Manufacturing Mississippi is coordinating the hiring of its workers through the Mississippi Department of Employment Security and the Workforce Investment Network (WIN) Job centers. That includes hourly skilled workers — the folks who will actually build the Toyota Corolla — and the hourly maintenance workers, who will keep the facility in operating shape.

Those interested can apply at www.mdes.ms.gov. Once there, click on the “Toyota” link underneath the Access Mississippi Online Services section. You can also peruse a list of the WIN Job Centers across the state at the same place.

Toyota expects to hire about 1,000 workers from the WIN Job Centers. The first Corollas are scheduled to come off the assembly line next fall.

MC to host automotive symposium

March 31st, 2010 34 comments

Mississippi’s automotive industry has had quite a bit of news recently. Toyota is still navigating the recall mess, and Nissan just affirmed plans to start producing light commercial vehicles at its facility in Canton, starting this fall.

Those two topics — and the future of Toyota’s Blue Springs facility — will likely be front and center April 16 at the Mississippi College School of Law in Downtown Jackson. The school will hold an automotive symposium from 1:30-3:30 p.m. in the auditorium of the Student Center.

Some familiar names and faces are scheduled to appear. They include Gov. Haley Barbour; David Copenhaver, vice president of Toyota Manufacturing, Mississippi; Jim Barksdale; Paul Johnson, director of the Toyota project at the Mississippi Development Authority; and Mississippi Economic Council President Blake Wilson.

J. Larry Lee, professor of law at MC, will moderate the event.

According to a press release from the school, the symposium and its participants will “assess the risks and opportunities that will define the future of the automotive industry,” a sector government and economic development officials hope will be a significant part of the Mississippi’s economy moving forward.

Mark your calendar. It’s pretty rare to get a group like this in the same room, so there should be some pretty interesting conversation.


Toyota reports February sales

March 2nd, 2010 No comments

Toyota has just released its sales figures for the month of February. There is some pretty good and some really bad in the numbers.

The really bad:

Overall sales of Toyotas — excluding Lexus and Scion — for February came in at 100,027 vehicles. That represents a decrease of 8.7 percent from last February.

The Corolla compact and the mid-size Camry and Camry Hybrid were the company’s best-sellers last month. About 17,000 new Corollas rolled off car lots; the Camry and Camry Hybrid combined to sell about 16,500 units.

To go with the foundering automotive market, Toyota had to expect some sales-related fallout from the recall mess the company has been fighting since the calendar turned to 2010.

The decline is magnified by the strong showings General Motors and Ford both posted earlier today. Ford sales increased a whopping 43 percent; GM’s jumped 12 percent.

The good news is that Lexus sales were up 4.5 percent in February 2010, compared with February 2009. The Tacoma mid-size pickup also saw its sales jump almost 6 percent.

What’s even better for Mississippi, where the company maintains it will eventually build the Prius Hybrid, is that sales of the vehicle this past February (7,968 units) were up 10.2 percent from the same period last year.

You can view the entire sales breakdown here.