Eye on Automotive: Toyota Revs, Daimler Stalls

Recruiters are not the only ones anxiously awaiting word about where Toyota Motor Corp. will build its newest assembly plant.

Mayors, city officials, and other business leaders across the Southeast United States are waiting to hear whether their cities will get the nod. Top contenders for the new plant include two cities in Tennessee (Chattanooga and Alamo); Marion, Arkansas; or Davidson County, North Carolina.

At least 2,000 people will be employed at the new Toyota plant, and thousands of other jobs will be created as a result of Toyota moving in to any one of these regions.

While Toyota remains mum on the news, there is some speculation that Toyota will eventually choose a 1,750-acre site just down the road from Memphis, in Marion, Arkansas.

Marion Chamber of Commerce officials say it’s “still kind of premature; no one can really get excited about it until they announce it, and that could take weeks.”

The city — with a population of 10,500 — is located close to eight area colleges, an asset to recruiters looking to find fresh talent for certain manufacturing positions.

According to the Chamber of Commerce, Marion is 11 miles west of downtown Memphis and 130 miles east of Little Rock. It lies alongside Interstate 55, two miles north of its junction with Interstate 40.

Marion was the runner-up last time Toyota went new site shopping. It ultimately picked San Antonio to manufacture its redesigned Tundra pickup series (which launched officially this week, a project company executives have said is the most important new product in 50 years).

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Toyota has said it plans to add more plant capacity in the United States, and most of these assembly plants will probably be located in the southeastern states, where labor costs remain low.

Indeed, DaimlerChrysler AG’s Chrysler Group has plans to cut more than 10,000 factory jobs and close an assembly plant in Newark, Delaware, and an engine plant in Detroit, Michigan.

In addition, the Japanese automaker continues its growth while the nation’s top two automakers, Ford and General Motors, are facing layoffs and plant shutdowns.

Overall, more than 70,000 GM and Ford workers have accepted buyout or early retirement offers since the companies’ restructuring efforts were announced last year.

This article orginally incorrectly referred to the Chrysler Group’s plant as being in Newark, New Jersey; it is in Newark, Delaware.

Elaine Rigoli has nearly 15 years of experience managing content and community for various B2B and consumer websites. Elaine has written thousands of business and technology articles and has been quoted in The Wall Street Journal and eWeek, among other publications.

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