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Toyota will finish assembly plant but delay production

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by Daily Commercial News

Toyota Motor Corp. is delaying the start of production at its plant in Blue Springs, Miss., indefinitely as the top Japanese automaker copes with the downturn in the auto industry.

NEW YORK

Toyota Motor Corp. is delaying the start of production at its plant in Blue Springs, Miss. indefinitely as the top Japanese automaker copes with the downturn in the auto industry.

The plant was scheduled to begin production in 2010 and make the Prius hybrid.

Mike Goss, a spokesman for Toyota’s U.S. arm, said the plant’s construction is about 90 per cent complete, and Toyota will finish the building.

However, the installation of the factory’s equipment and machinery — “the most time-consuming” element of construction, he said — is delayed indefinitely.

The roughly 100 people who have been hired to oversee construction and install human resources plans at the plant will not lose their jobs and will be assigned other duties, Goss said.

Although Toyota’s U.S. sales have held up better than those of its Detroit-based counterparts, the entire industry has seen a steep plunge, which Goss said forced Toyota to delay the plant’s opening.

Carmakers industrywide have been having trouble making sales to skittish consumers, and it has been more difficult and more expensive for some buyers to obtain financing in the tightened credit markets.

Toyota reported its auto sales in the U.S. fell 34 per cent in November, while sales across the industry sank 37 per cent.

The company’s sales are down 13 per cent for the first 11 months of the year compared with the same period in 2007.

The Toyota City, Japan-based automaker has also seen volumes of its once-popular hybrids plunge as gas amid the collapse in gasoline prices. The Prius, a brisk-seller when gas hit record highs this summer, saw its November sales plunge 48 per cent. Toyota’s other hybrids, like gas-electric versions of the Camry and Highlander, are facing even bigger sales declines.

The Mississippi plant, northwest of Tupelo, was initially to be up and running in late 2009 or early 2010, but earlier this year, Toyota pushed the date back to mid-2010.

Associated Press

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