Sean Suggs

SEAN SUGGS

The Toyota plant in Blue Springs, Mississippi, has had many exciting milestones to celebrate in recent months. We’ve added jobs, increased investments in equipment and in March of this year, we launched the all-new 2020 Corolla to much fanfare and celebration. We have talented team members and we are actively hiring.

Despite all our positive momentum, our plant may be under siege.

You may have recently heard about the tariffs being considered by the White House. Trade representatives have until November 14 to negotiate trade agreements with certain countries, including Japan. If an agreement is not reached within that time, the President will be able to impose tariffs on imported vehicles and vehicle parts.

What’s more, the Administration recently issued a proclamation that Toyota and other international automakers have reduced the market share of American-owned companies and are therefore a national security threat.

I can say without hesitation, that the (more than 2,000) fine people building the Corolla are not a national security threat!

On the contrary, they are an asset. Our team has contributed in many ways to the economy of this great state for more than a decade. They not only work here, they also raise their families and give back to their local community through regular acts of service and charitable contributions. Our team takes on leadership roles with the Boys and Girls Club, Salvation Army, and many other fine organizations. We have donated money (nearly $4 million), and our time (more than 7,000 hours) to build up the community.

The disturbing message sent to Toyota’s American workforce is that they are neither appreciated or valued. Nothing could be further from the truth. When I walk the plant floor and look into the eyes of the team members making the Toyota Corolla, I’m filled with pride and appreciation for all they do for our company, community and country.

To justify support for vehicle import tariffs, the Administration claims that a “lag in R&D expenditures by American-owned producers” is weakening innovation and can be “improved by reducing imports.”

Far from weakening innovation, Toyota has been a leader in R&D through open-sourcing our patents in critical technologies such as fuel cells and hybrid electrification as well as through continuous collaboration on new technology.

To date, we have built more than 1.2 Million Corollas right here in Blue Springs, MS! Across Mississippi, our plant generates nearly 6,700 jobs though our supplier network. Since we began operations, Toyota has given more than $4.3 million in charitable contributions to worthy causes in Mississippi, as well as established the Toyota Wellspring Education Fund with a $50 million endowment.

Our Mississippi-built vehicles are among the most American-built vehicles on the market today – they are also among Toyota’s exports to 32 countries around the world. Most every American has a Toyota story, and we are very proud that more than 36 million Toyota and Lexus vehicles are still on U.S. roads today.

Overall, Toyota has established deep roots in the U.S. Between our R&D centers, 10 manufacturing plants, 1,500 dealers, extensive supply chain and other operations, we directly and indirectly employ more than 475,000 people. We are also fortunate that 2,500 veterans and reservists are Toyota employees. Toyota is in the midst of a $13 billion investment in the U.S. over a five-year period.

History has shown that artificial restraints – like a tariff – on imported vehicles and parts would stifle investment and jobs, reduce consumer choice and impact all automakers since parts used in manufacturing are sourced from around the globe.

We remain hopeful that the upcoming negotiations on trade can be resolved quickly and yield what is best for American consumers, our team members, the community and the auto industry.

As a large manufacturer in Mississippi, our commitment to the future of this great state should never be in doubt or seen as a threat. It will always be rock solid!

Sean Suggs is president of Toyota Motor Manufacturing Mississippi

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