Environmentalists have cause to rejoice. The world's most popular hybrid vehicle will now also be manufactured in the largest car market in the world. Toyota today announced that it would start making its iconic Prius in the US for the first time at a plant it is building in Blue Springs, Mississippi. Production is scheduled for 2010.
(Also see: Toyota plans to make the Prius greener with solar panels in 2009)
That, and some other changes were announced by the Japanese automaker as a response to changes in consumer demand. At the same time, they are supposed to improve production efficiency and stability of its North American operations.
The other changes include:
- The Highlander mid-size SUV, originally scheduled to be built in Mississippi, will now be manufactured in Princeton, Indiana, beginning in autumn 2009.
- Production of the Tundra full-size pick-up truck, currently built in Indiana and Texas, will be consolidated at the San Antonio plant in spring 2009.
In addition, Toyota will temporarily suspend Tundra and Sequoia production beginning 8 August due to the declining overall market for full size trucks and SUVs. Production is scheduled to resume in early November. Team members at both facilities, as well as the Huntsville plant that builds Tundra and Sequoia engines, will continue to be provided work.
With this move, Toyota joins the ranks of other major auto manufacturers like General Motors and Ford who have cut back on SUVs and trucks to concentrate on smaller vehicles in their portfolios. (See: Ford to step up small car production; stalls pickup and SUV production)
"The truck market continues to worsen, so unfortunately we must temporarily suspend production. But this good news about production mix demonstrates our long-term commitment to our North American operations and to our team members, supplier partners, and communities where our plants are located," said Jim Wiseman, vice president/external affairs for Toyota Motor Engineering & Manufacturing North America (TEMA).
"By using this downturn as an opportunity to develop team members and improve our operations, we hope to emerge even stronger," he added.
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