The San Antonio Toyota plant is on a path to record production in 2013, with assembly lines working overtime, and an unprecedented third overnight shift under consideration, 1200 WOAI news reports.
Sales of Tacoma and tundra pickup trucks are both up double digits in 2013. Through the first six months of the year, sales of Tundras, all of which are made at the south side plant, are up 14.3%. Sales of Tacomas, about half of which are produced here, are up an amazing 20.9%. Everything from pent up demand from the recession to the booming construction industry get the credit for the sales hike.
But Chris Nielsen, President of Toyota Motor Manufacturing Texas, says the bottom line is, production records, and production levels which are well above the 200,000 vehicle ceiling Toyota predicted when the plant opened in 2006.
"Last year we produced a record 219,00 trucks," Nielsen said. "This year, we are going to be well north of that as well, so we're excited."
Nielsen says employment at the Toyota plant today is at a record of about 2900, with an equal number employed by the suppliers who ring the sprawling plant.
The plant is working two shifts full blast, with many of those working pocketing hefty pay bumps due to overtime and Saturday production. Nielsen says a third, overnight, shift remains under consideration, but right now he wants to share the wealth with existing employees.
"We are currently continuing to work the overtime on both shifts," he said. "But we will certainly look at any option in the future if we need to expand production."
Nielsen says the lesson in the success of the Toyota plant is to invest in your employees, instead of dumping them when times get tough, as most companies still do.
"Those difficult years where the market wasn't so strong, where we reinvested in our team members through training and education, all of that investment now is coming to fruition," he said.
Toyota in San Antonio was hit by a double whammy. Shortly after the plant opened, demand for its pickups fell due to the recession. Then in early 2010, just when it appeared the recession was ending, a huge tsunami in Japan disrupted production by delaying the shipment of parts to San Antonio.
Rather than laying off workers, which less far sighted companies did during the recession, Toyota used the opportunity to improve their skills, and many employees did community service work at area non profits while they waited for the market to pick up.
Now that the market is booming, Nielsen says Toyota's decision to keep the workers on board is paying off.