“These team members, on behalf of our 2,000 team members here at Toyota Mississippi are celebrating this 500,000th Corolla,” says Rich Whittington, a Toyota spokesman. Demand for the Corolla hit a new record in January and year-over-year sales grew by about 12 percent. In order to satisfy the demand, workers at the Blue Springs plant had been working overtime regularly. Fred Volf, a Canadian transplant, is Toyota Mississippi’s vice president for manufacturing.
“We’ve done typically anywhere from .7 to 1 h per shift of overtime, Monday to Friday. And we’ve been typically working one Saturday per month,” Volf said.
But the ongoing labor dispute at several West Coast ports has somewhat put the brakes on production as auto parts that are coming directly from Japan are being held up. With fewer parts and higher costs to ship them via airfreight – overtime makes little sense right now. But, says Volf, so far, the carmaker has not fallen much below its normal volume, churning out about 740 Corollas each day.
“Of course, over the long term we will be a little behind," Volf said. "But that just means we shift our Saturday production further into the future and we’ll catch it up quickly.”
Reaching the half million mark within three years makes the Blue Springs plant faster than any other Toyota U.S. facility. Now, one Corolla lines off every 73 seconds.