Toyota to built new SUV plant in Mississippi

Gov. Haley Barbour plans to announce Tuesday that Toyota Motor Corp. will build a manufacturing plant in northeast Mississippi, a person familiar with the topic of the news conference said, speaking on condition of anonymity because no announcement had yet been made.

The Nikkei, a Japanese business newspaper, said on its Web site Monday that Toyota had picked Mississippi for an $880 million sports utility vehicle plant.

Barbour spokesman Pete Smith, asked if the announcement involved Toyota, responded: "We're not saying anything about it." Daniel Sieger, spokesman for Toyota's North American manufacturing division, said there was "nothing to announce at this moment."

Mississippi Development Authority officials did not immediately return calls for comment, the AP reports.

With a 13 percent jump in 2006 sales, Toyota sped past Chrysler as the third-biggest car maker in the United States, putting its market share at a record-high 15.4 percent against the U.S. brand's 12.9 percent. This year, Toyota is widely expected to edge past Ford Motor Co. , having trailed the U.S. icon by just 1 percentage point last year.

Ahead of the reported Mississippi plan, Toyota will add a combined 250,000 units in annual capacity in North America by using a line at affiliate Fuji Heavy Industries' Indiana factory this year and opening a new Canadian plant next year.

Late last year, Toyota began production of the Tundra pickup truck at a new 200,000-units-a-year factory in Texas.

Toyota is under pressure to boost production in the region to avoid potential political fallout from a jump in the number of vehicles shipped from Japan to the United States. Last year, just half of the vehicles it sold in the United States were built in North America, compared with a rate of more than 70 percent for both Honda Motor Co. and Nissan Motor Co.

At the current rate of sales growth in North America, some analysts say Toyota would need to add capacity at a rate of one factory every year, Reuters reports.

The Toyota plant would be the second big auto factory in Mississippi and would be an economic boost after the devastation caused by Hurricane Katrina in 2005. Nissan Motor Company opened an assembly plant in Canton, outside Jackson, in 2003.

Toyota also had considered expanding its plant in San Antonio, which builds a new version of its Tundra pickup. Its 2,000-acre plant site there is believed to be among the biggest in the world, and it is common for Toyota to expand factories after it begins production.

Toyota executives see the newest Tundra, which competes with Detroit’s big pickups, as the most important vehicle the company has ever introduced in the United States, New York Times reports.

Source: agencies

Prepared by Alexander Timoshik

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Author`s name Alex Naumov