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Toyota reports February sales

March 2nd, 2010 No comments

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

The bad:

Overall sales of Toyotas — excluding Lexus and Scion — for February came in at100,027 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. Both General Motors and Ford earlier today posted strong showings for February. 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.

Toyota idling two plants, and a little housekeeping

February 16th, 2010 No comments

Toyota announced today that it will idle two of its manufacturing facilities — one in Texas, the other in Kentucky — as the fallout from the recalls spreads. The plant in Texas, which makes the Tundra truck, will shut down for one week in March and one week in April. The facility in Kentucky, where Toyota builds the Camry and Avalon sedans and the Venza crossover, will idle Feb. 26 and possibly two or three more days in March or April,a spokesman told the Associated Press.

That doesn’t make much of an impact here in Mississippi, but I have a story in this week’s edition of the MBJ that takes a look at how the recalls — which added the Prius about 10 days ago — might affect the Blue Springs plant, which supposedly will build the Prius, though nobody really knows when production will start. Be sure to check it out.

Anyway, there remain a few notes from that story that didn’t really fit with the overall theme of the final draft, but are still worth mentioning:

Michelle Krebs, senior analyst at Edmunds.com, had an interesting take on how Toyota is handling the public relations boondoggle the recalls have created. A lot of folks have said that Toyota was slow to react, and when it did, did not do that great a job. That may be due to a couple things, Krebs said. The first is that there apparently was no established blueprint  to start putting out the fires immediately after they started. Krebs’ second theory goes to the Japanese culture.

“I would think that any major corporation of any sort would have a crisis management plan ready to enact at any moment,” she said. “You would think they would practice some of these scenarios. I think it’s definitely a lack of experience. If you look at the Japanese culture, the companies are revered. They don’t have a lot of lawyers. They don’t have the scrutiny of the media like we do here. And frankly, I think Toyota got arrogant and got complacent.”

Mark Ragsdale, a former dealership owner who now serves as a consultant to the automotive industry, said Toyota put too much of the PR burden on its dealers, which runs counter to the reputation it has enjoyed among its individual franchises.

“Toyota always is in the top two or three in dealer-relations surveys,” Ragsdale said. “But automakers are their own breed of cat. They’re not real big on taking responsibility. The automakers use dealers as human shields to get in front of the customer and handle things, but dealers don’t always have the tools to do that.”

Toyota makes Prius recall official

February 9th, 2010 No comments

Toyota announced late last night it is recalling 133,000 2010 Prius hybrids to fix problems associated with the antilock braking system software. Also included in the recall are 14,500 2010 Lexus HS 250h models.

Toyota said in a press release that some Prius and 250h owners have experienced “inconsistent brake feel during slow and steady application of brakes on rough or slick road surfaces when the ABS is activated in an effort to maintain tire traction.”

Obviously, the Prius is near and dear to the heart of Mississippi’s business community, with the facility in Blue Springs on tap to eventually build the vehicle. Magnolia Marketplace is working on a story for next week’s MBJ about how the recall mess will (or won’t) affect the goings-on in North Mississippi. Look for it.

UPDATED AT 10 A.M.: Meant to include a link to the Toyota press release, which is here.

Toyota feeling less than Super

February 8th, 2010 No comments

So the Saints won the Super Bowl, Drew Brees won the game’s MVP, and according to various national media outlets, poverty, corruption and every other scourge on New Orleans is gone forever, or at least that’s what the hours of pregame coverage yesterday seemed to imply. And if there is anybody north of Memphis who is aware that Hurricane Katrina did her worst damage in Mississippi, I’d like to meet that person.

Moving on.

Toyota announced yesterday that it will unveil its plan of action for dealing with the problems that have arisen with the Prius’ antilock braking system. This is the latest blow in the wave of recalls to hit the company the past couple of weeks.

We have a message in to the Toyota Motor Manufacturing North America folks in an effort to get a few details on when they’ll make the announcement, and what exactly it will entail.

When we hear back from them, we’ll post what they have to say.

UPDATED AT 10:52 A.M.: Still no word from the stateside Toyota folks, but Kyodo News in Japan is reporting that about 300,000 Prius hybrids will be recalled. Details are here.

UPDATED AGAIN AT 12:53 P.M.: Magnolia Marketplace just heard from Mike Michels, spokesman for Toyota Motor Sales USA. He did not provide a timetable for when Toyota would issue its Prius solution, saying only that it would be “early this week. Otherwise, there’s nothing to report,” he said.

Categories: Hurricane Katrina, News, Toyota Tags:

Spokeswoman: Prius recall not yet official

February 5th, 2010 No comments

We just got off the phone with Toyota Motor Manufacturing North America Spokeswoman Barbara McDaniel. Here’s the full transcript of our brief conversation.

Magnolia Marketplace: “Has anything become official with the Prius recall?”

McDaniel: “No, there’s nothing official. We’re still investigating.”

Magnolia Marketplace: “I’m contractually obligated to ask this question, but will this have any effect on the Blue Springs facility?”

McDaniel: “No.”

So there you have it. Gov. Haley Barbour is holding a press conference at 11 a.m. to announce yet another round of budget cuts, but we’ll try to sneak in a question about Toyota and see what he thinks.

UPDATED AT 9:36 A.M.: Barbour’s office has just issued a press release announcing the press conference at 11 has been canceled so Barbour can “continue to analyze budget options.”

News out of Japan says Toyota will recall 2010 Prius

February 4th, 2010 No comments

Toyota, which supposedly will build its hybrid Prius at some point in Blue Springs, has not had the greatest month.

Seven of the company’s models, totaling more than 5 million vehicles, have been recalled the past two weeks because of issues with accelerators sticking.

Now comes news from Japan — where it’s already Friday so the daily newspapers have hit the Web and the streets — that the company is expected to recall the 2010 Prius because of problems with the car’s antilock braking system. The Nikkei, the Japanese version of the Wall Street Journal, reports that the Japanese Transport Ministry has yet to receive notice of a formal recall, which would have to happen before anything became official. There have been a total of only 180 complaints in the U.S. and Japan associated with the Prius’s brakes, but the falloutf rom the first round of recalls has probably magnified the issue somewhat.

We’ll have reaction from statesode Toyota folks first thing in the morning.

Categories: News, Toyota Tags:

Spokeswoman: Toyota recall will have no bearing on Blue Springs plans

February 2nd, 2010 No comments

Toyota, which has long been considered the gold standard for automotive companies, has taken a substantial hit lately with its recall related to gas pedals sticking to the floor, causing sudden and unintended acceleration. (“Sudden unintended acceleration” — now that sounds scary.)

Anyway, most of the media coverage has focused on how the company will rebound from having to suspend sales of eight of its models, including the Camry, traditionally one of its best sellers.

What the recall will not touch is Toyota’s plans for Blue Springs, according to spokeswoman Barbara McDaniel. “Totally unrelated” is how McDaniel characterized the recall and the question of when the facility in North Mississippi will start production.

Not included in the gas pedal recall is the hybrid Prius, the vehicle Toyota plans to build in Blue Springs whenever it decides to open it.

In legislative news, today marks a major deadline. Bills that aren’t sent out of their committees by midnight tonight will die. Magnolia Marketplace is working on a story for next week’s MBJ that takes a look at what died and what survived that is of interest to the business community. Look for it.

Barbour plans “major economic development” announcement this afternoon

January 4th, 2010 No comments

Just before Christmas, Magnolia Marketplace made a few predictions for 2010 (read them here) and one of them was that Ole Miss QB Jevan Snead would throw at least one interception in the Cotton Bowl.

Just call us Nostradamus Marketplace.

Anyway, the first workday of 2010 has a chance to prove another of our predictions true, although it is a small chance.

Gov. Haley Barbour is set to make a “major economic development announcement” this afternoon at 4, according to a press release from his office.

Two things jump to mind immediately: One is Toyota and the other is a steel pipe manufacturer that wants to build a facility in Tunica. Based on what Magnolia Marketplace has heard the past couple months, we would be suprised — but not at all shocked — if Toyota announced before March or April that the Blue Springs plant was moving forward. That’s not to say definitively that today’s news from Barbour won’t be Toyota-centric, but it would be a mild upset if it was.

There is a decent chance Barbour will tell everybody that the German manufacturer of steel pipes has resolved the financing issue that has held up the Legislature passing an incentive package. Barbour had planned to call a special session in late October to do so, but that has been delayed while the company got its financial ducks in a row.

It could be either of those two things, or it could be neither of those two things. As soon as we know, we’ll spread the word.

UPDATED AT 10:15 A.M. : Toyota spokeswoman Barbara McDaniel just emailed to say that today’s announcement will have nothing to do with Toyota. “It’s not us,” McDaniel wrote.

So there you have it.

Merry Christmas from Magnolia Marketplace

December 22nd, 2009 No comments

Apologies for the extended neglect of the blog. With the Holidays switching up the schedule here at the MBJ, we’ve had to cram two work weeks into one. That’s not a complaint, because it means we’re getting a few days off to do the Christmas routines, watch bowl games, drink eggnog and watch more bowl games.

Big things happened in 2009. Some good, some not good, some pretty bad. We took a look back in this week’s edition. Next week, we’ll look forward with some predictions for 2010 from some of the state’s business and political experts. There’s a surprise or two in there. Look for it.

In that vein, some personal predictions from Magnolia Marketplace:

• The legislative session that starts in a couple weeks will be wild and woolly.

• And despite what each party’s leadership says now, the state’s budget for fiscal year 2011 will not be done by the end of March, though we’d love to be proven wrong.

• No state agency will be happy with its appropriation for FY2011.

• In fact, many agency heads will cry bloody murder.

• Gov. Haley Barbour’s proposal to merge the three HBCUs into one will get absolutely nowhere in the Legislature, but that’s not going out on much of a limb.

• The Congressional campaign between Republican State Sen. Alan Nunnelee and Travis Childers, the Democrat from Booneville who represents the First District, will be a humdinger, with the national committees from each party pouring lots of money into it.

• The tone of the campaign will be exceedingly nasty.

• Toyota will announce it is ready to move forward with the Blue Springs plant.

• By this time next year, we’ll have a much clearer picture of the gubernatorial candidates for 2011, particularly on the Democratic side.

• On Jan. 2, Jevan Snead will throw at least one interception in the Cotton Bowl.

• Magnolia Marketplace will hit the ceiling when he does.

To you and yours, Merry Christmas. We’ll see you Dec. 28.

Report: Toyota to resume work on Blue Springs plant, open it in spring 2011

December 4th, 2009 No comments

The Nikkei, the Japanese version of the Wall Street Journal, is reporting that Toyota plans to resume construction of the plant in Blue Springs, with the hopes of opening it in the spring of 2011. The plant will initially produce the compact Corolla cars, and start producing the hybrid Prius later.

Details are here. Magnolia Marketplace is burning up the phone lines, and we’ll have a story on the site soon.

UPDATED AT 1:35 P.M.: Toyota is now denying the Nikkei report. Spokeswoman Barbara McDaniel tells the Northeast Mississippi Daily Journal that “nothing is decided” but that the company remains committed to opening the Blue Springs facility.

So, after several minutes of burning up the phone lines and getting excited for the folks in North Mississippi, turns out it was a false alarm. For now.