Toyota says no change to Mississippi plant opening

Published 1:05 am Sunday, November 16, 2008

Toyota Motor Corp. said Friday that for now it is sticking with plans to open its new Mississippi plant in 2010 despite media reports that Japan’s top automaker is mulling a delay.

“As we said during our second-quarter financial results announcement, as an emergency profit improvement measure, we are reviewing all future production projects,” said Toyota spokesman Paul Nolasco. “However, no decisions have been made yet.”

The Nikkei financial daily reported Friday that eroding North American sales had forced Toyota to consider postponing the start of production to 2011 or later.

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Earlier this month, Toyota said its net profit for the July-September quarter plunged 69 percent. The car maker also downgraded its full-year profit forecast to 550 billion yen ($5.5 billion) — about a third of last year’s result.

Executive Vice President Mitsuo Kinoshita said after the earnings release that the company had convened an “Emergency Profit Improvement Committee” to cut costs and maximize revenues. Toyota is also assessing its manufacturing operations by “re-examining aspects such as the timing and scale of new projects,” he said.

The Blue Springs, Mississippi, facility is slated to make the popular Prius hybrid amid strong demand for fuel-efficient models. Toyota had initially looked to build the Highlander sport utility vehicle at the plant but altered its plans in July as part of a restructuring of its North American manufacturing operations.

Shares of Toyota rose 3.9 percent to 3,200 yen on the Tokyo Stock Exchange Friday, in line with broader market gains.