Special Coverage

Management Briefing Seminars

TRAVERSE CITY, MI – Toyota Motor Corp. will shift all production of its Tundra fullsize pickup to its Texas plant earlier than anticipated.

It’s a speedup that will allow the auto maker to get a head start on producing the Highlander cross/utility vehicle at its Princeton, IN, plant, Toyota Motors Sales U.S.A. Inc.’s Bob Carter says at the Management Briefing Seminars.

The move was made for “efficiency,” Carter, group vice president and general manager-Toyota Div., tells media following his speech here. “We’re going to be building to where we see the market in the short term. (San Antonio) is a brand-new plant (with) plenty of capacity, so combining into San Antonio gives us the ability to introduce Highlander earlier into Princeton.”

Toyota builds the Tundra in both Princeton and at a dedicated truck plant in San Antonio. It announced last month it would take Tundra production down for three months at both locations due to bulging inventories. It had planned to resume production at both plants in November, before moving all Tundra production to San Antonio in 2009.

Now, as the Associated Press first reported, Tundra production will not resume in Princeton.

Tundra sales are down 15.2% year-to-date, contributing to the 15.8% decline in all Toyota-brand light-truck deliveries, according to Ward’s data.

But Carter says, halfway through August, trucks are showing some resiliency.

“The light-truck market is actually seeing a slight improvement,” he says.

Carter attributes that to the decline in gasoline prices in recent weeks and a return to the market of some previously oil-shocked buyers.

Despite that, Toyota still expects this month’s light-truck sales – as well as its overall car deliveries – to trail year-ago levels, he says.

In his speech, Carter tells MBS attendees to remain upbeat and have confidence the U.S. new-vehicle market will rebound, citing an often-heard Toyota forecast of a population boom coming in the next 15 years.

Meanwhile, he advises suppliers to send Toyota their ideas, telling reporters later that “we are smarter together than we are individually.”

He cites the story of a relatively new supplier, Multimatic, that worked with the auto maker to upgrade its quality and apply Toyota’s vaunted production system even before it had a supply contract. That ultimately led to Multimatic winning the damper system business for the Tundra’s tailgate.

“Why did we entrust the handling of a complex system on a vital part to a new supplier?” he asks. “Because Multimatic did their homework.”

Toyota has set up a website, toyotasupplier.com, to ease the idea sharing process, he says.

cschweinsberg@wardsauto.com