BLUE SPRINGS, Mississippi — A red Toyota Corolla LE — specifically Barcelona Red Metallic — assembled Thursday morning is headed to Mexico for a waiting buyer.
This Corolla doesn't have any particular feature other similar models have, except one particular distinction: It's the 500,000th car built at Toyota Motor Manufacturing Mississippi.
The plant, which began building the Corolla in October 2011, reached the half-million production mark faster than any of the other eight Toyota plants in the U.S.
"This is a proud moment in our history," said Fred Volf, Toyota Mississippi vice president of manufacturing. "It's a big milestone for this plant and achievement, but we really couldn't have done it by ourselves."
Volf said it took a team effort to reach the benchmark, involving not only Toyota Mississippi workers, but also its suppliers, the communities and support from state and regional leaders.
Toyota has invested some $880 million in the 2 million-square-foot plant, which has a production capacity of 170,000 vehicles. With overtime and some Saturday work, Toyota Mississippi built more than 180,000 Corollas last year.
Volf said the plant can build even more if necessary.
"With the flexibility of our plant. . internally, under this building we can officially achieve about 200,000 if demand grows," he said. "There is room to grow internally."
Toyota sold 339,000 Corollas last year in the U.S., the most since 2008.
Downplaying persistent plant expansion rumors, Volf said Toyota always is looking for opportunities to grow.
"In Mississippi, our whole focus is an internal focus and 200,000 is our capacity. We're focusing on how to be better manufacturers. So our team members are continuing to develop and how they become independent and grow to be competitive within Toyota and within the auto industry. Those other things that come in the future are the result of running a good business."
Information from: Northeast Mississippi Daily Journal, http://djournal.com