In a switch that could benefit the Toyota Mississippi in Blue Springs, Toyota Motor Corp. said recently it will build a new sport utility vehicle at a $1.6 billion joint venture assembly plant in Alabama rather than the Corolla.
Toyota Mississipp, which began production of the Corolla in 2011, employs some 2,000 team members and builds the bulk of Corollas sold in North America.
With the switch, Toyota will rely on the Blue Springs plant and a plant in Japan to supply Corollas. When Toyota and Mazda announced in January 2018 it would build the new plant, the automaker said Corolla production in Canada would switch to the new facility.
Meanwhile, the Japanese automaker said Tuesday that overall sales in the U.S. in September dropped 15.5 percent. For the year, sales are down 2.5 percent.
Corolla sales in September totaled 20,354, a drop of 2.1 percent from the 20,797 sold a year earlier. So far this year, Toyota has sold 233,978 Corollas, down 0.5 percent from the 235,168 sold through the same period in 2018.
The Toyota Mazda plant is being built near Huntsville, Alabama, and is expectedt to start production in 2021. It sits on a 2,500-acre site about 14 miles from Toyota’s engine plant in Huntsville, Alabama, and will employ up to 4,000 people.
Toyota said the shift to building an SUV was due to “a growing consumer appetite for light trucks and SUVs.”
The Blue Springs plant is familiar with model switches. When originally announced in 2007, the plant was going to build the Highlander crossover. Then after announcing a delay in opening during the recession, Toyota said it would build the Prius. But in 2010, when it announced plant construction would resume, it said the Corolla would be the vehicle produced.
Since October 2011, Toyota Mississippi has built more than 1.2 million Corollas.