Texas Plant to Build Toyota Tacoma Pickups

In San Antonio, Texas, 1,000 workers have been added to the roster at the Toyota Motor Corporation production facility. For the first time since the plant’s difficult start in 2006, it will be operating near full capacity building Tacoma pickup trucks.

The San Antonio plant was originally built to make large Tundra trucks, but dwindling demand for the big pickups coupled with the closing of the joint-venture plant in California led to Toyota’s decision to spend $100 million on moving Tacoma production to Texas.

Toyota’s sales chief Jim Lentz spoke to reporters while at the factory this past week. He said, “No one forecast the overall collapse of the U.S. market in 2008, and certainly we didn’t anticipate full-size trucks would fall as much as they did.” When the San Antonio plant opened, the plan was to sell at least 200,000 Tundras per year, but the first year of Tundra sales was disappointing, and U.S. volume continued to fall as gasoline prices rocketed upward and the recession took hold.

The additional spending on the San Antonio facility brings its total price tag to $1.4 million, an amount that will likely take ten years to recoup, compared to most plants, which take about seven years, says Lentz. There are no current plans to enlarge the facility, although the number of workers hired exceeded the predicted 850.

At the factory’s current pace, Toyota may be able to produce 220,000 Tundras and Tacomas combined there, says plant manager Dan Antis. Tania Saldana, Toyota spokesperson, says official capacity for the factory is still 200,000 trucks per year. There are 2,800 employees at the facility, with 2,500 of those working for onsite suppliers, Antis says.

At the 2010 Management Briefing Seminars held in Traverse City, Michigan, Steve St. Angelo spoke about Toyota’s plant utilization. St. Angelo is the executive vice president for North America manufacturing for the company. He said that the increases in production in Texas as well as other facilities in Canada, the U.S. and Mexico mean plant utilization for the region will be at 90% this year, and by 2011, plant use will rise to 100%.

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