Wednesday, October 14 2009
PRINCETON, IN - Sustaining 4,200 Tri-State jobs. NEWS 25 finds Toyota's Princeton plant held on to a number of workers during this strained economy, even when production was way down.
This week the plant started making the company's Highlander mid-size SUV model and NEWS 25 gets a look inside to see if production is stepping up.
$450 million went into preparing the plant for its newest model. Plant managers tell us, in the end, it will provide job security for plant workers.
It's been a year of slow go for workers at the plant.
"We were training all, most of the time because the plant wasn't running," says Ralph Goodwin, a Toyota employee.
Last year, Toyota pulled its Tundra pick-up out of Princeton, and left behind the Sienna mini-van, and Sequoia full-size SUV, but with the troubled economy, demand for the Sequoia went way down.
"When the gas prices went up, with the size of that vehicle, the sales went down," says Wil James, Senior Vice President of Manufacturing and Quality Control for the Princeton plant.
James tells us production at the plant also went down, but Toyota was determined not to lay anyone off.
Workers went into training mode, and prepared the plant for the Highlander mid-size SUV.
"We made a strategic decision to keep our employees even when we didn't have the volume to warrant them to be here. So I won't say that it would save jobs because we were saving the jobs anyway, but it did protect the jobs," says James.
James tells NEWS 25 bringing the Highlander here, means more job security for plant workers, since it's a popular model among car buyers.
It's now made next to the Sequoia, but three times as many Highlanders will be driven off the line.
"With the Highlander coming we were able to work a lot more. Everybody's excited because it’s something new," says Goodwin.
NEWS 25 learned the Princeton plant is now in the process of retooling another part of its plant to make way for a new Sienna mini-van design, rolling out at the beginning of next year.