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Toyota expected to build in Mississippi

Its ninth assembly plant on the continent, costing $800 million, may go up near Elvis' hometown.

February 27, 2007|John O'Dell | Times Staff Writer

Toyota Motor Corp., eager to be seen as part of the U.S. auto industry these days, is expected to announce this morning that it will build its ninth North American assembly plant.

And what could be more American than a plant near Elvis Presley's hometown of Tupelo, Miss?

Toyota executives and Mississippi officials have declined to comment. But the Japanese automaker has set a U.S. manufacturing announcement for this morning, and the Daily Journal newspaper in Tupelo reported Monday evening on its website that unnamed government officials had confirmed the site.

The paper also reported that Mississippi Gov. Haley Barbour was scheduled to make a major economic development announcement in Tupelo today, accompanied by the state's senior U.S. senator, Trent Lott.

Toyota has been looking at sites in the South for a sport utility vehicle plant. The cities of Marion, Ark., and Chattanooga, Tenn., were considered but reportedly eliminated because of air-quality problems.

The new plant is expected to be an $800-million project that could add 150,000 to 200,000 vehicles a year to Toyota's annual North American production.

Toyota executives have said repeatedly in recent years that they were concerned about being seen as a threat as their firm gains market share at the expense of the traditional Big Three U.S. automakers.

Toyota assembles about 1.5 million cars and trucks a year in North America and plans to increase that to 2 million by the end of 2008. The automaker reportedly wants to add as many as five factories.

It operates six North American assembly plants and eight parts plants, has a seventh assembly facility under construction in Canada and will begin sharing a Subaru assembly plant in Indiana in the spring.

john.odell@latimes.com

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