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Toyota's Prius Headed to Mississippi

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2008 Toyota Prius

2008 Toyota Prius

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Toyota is suffering a sales slump in the U.S.--and part of the cure will be building the Prius hybrid in its yet-unopened plant in Mississippi.

This morning's Wall Street Journal reports--and Toyota confirms in a press release below--that the plant in Blue Springs, Miss., which had been planned initially to crank out 200,000 Highlander crossover vehicles, will instead be built to manufacture the next-generation Toyota Prius. The plant has been running behind schedule as Toyota slowed its build schedule to accommodate sluggish car sales. Earlier this year, Toyota also cut the forecast for building Highlanders at the plant from 200,000 a year to 120,000 annually.

Now Toyota plans to build its Prius at the plant in the northeast corner of the state. The Journal doesn't clarify if it will be the new Prius that's expected to show up at the 2009 Detroit auto show, but Toyota is expected to bring a replacement for the Prius to market in the 2010 model year--and possibly, will even introduce different body styles and a plug-in version of the popular hybrid.

In other readjustments of U.S. production, Toyota will move all full-size Tundra pickup production to San Antonio, Texas, leaving its Indiana plant open to build the Sequoia SUV and the new Highlander. Toyota, under current market conditions, is not making money at any of its U.S. truck plants, the Journal adds.

READ MORE: Toyota Plans Changes To U.S. Manufacturing Operations - WSJ.com

Highlander to Indiana; all Tundra to Texas

ERLANGER, Ky., July 10 /PRNewswire-FirstCall/ -- Toyota is responding
to changes in consumer demand and improving the production efficiency and
stability of its North American operations by adjusting production mix at
three plants. The changes include the addition of the Prius hybrid sedan to
its North American lineup.

The changes are as follows:

-- Prius will be built at a plant under construction in Blue Springs,
Miss. Production is scheduled to begin in late 2010. Prius, which will join
the Kentucky-built Camry Hybrid as the second Toyota hybrid built in North
America, enables Toyota to better respond to increased consumer demand for
hybrid vehicles.

-- The Highlander mid-size SUV, originally scheduled to be built in
Mississippi, will now be manufactured in Princeton, Ind., beginning in Fall
2009.

-- Production of the Tundra full-size pick-up truck, currently built in
Indiana and Texas, will be consolidated at the San Antonio plant in Spring
2009.

In addition, Toyota will temporarily suspend Tundra and Sequoia
production beginning August 8 due to the declining overall market for full
size trucks and SUVs. Production is scheduled to resume in early November.
Team members at both facilities, as well as the Huntsville, Ala. plant that
builds Tundra and Sequoia engines, will continue to be provided work.

"The truck market continues to worsen, so unfortunately we must
temporarily suspend production. But this good news about production mix
demonstrates our long-term commitment to our North American operations and
to our team members, supplier partners, and communities where our plants
are located," said Jim Wiseman, vice president/external affairs for Toyota
Motor Engineering & Manufacturing North America (TEMA). "By using this
downturn as an opportunity to develop team members and improve our
operations, we hope to emerge even stronger."
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