Toyota unveils new 2020 Corolla

Gov. Phil Bryant gives a thumbs-up from the driver's seat of the first 2020 Corolla made at Toyota Blue Springs as Chris Reynolds, Toyota's chief  administrative officer, looks on at Monday's celebration.

Toyota not only knows how to build a car but it also knows how to throw a party. Hundreds of people celebrated the arrival of the new 2020 Toyota Corolla onstage at the company’s Blue Springs plant Monday. Attendees ranged from Toyota workers to local and state elected officials, including Gov. Phil Bryant. In a cloud of smoke lit by laser lights and accompanied by rocking music, the dark blue Corolla was driven onto the stage by Toyota workers who also filled the car. Wild cheering greeted the unveiling. The car’s keys had earlier been presented to Blue Springs Mayor Rita Gentry while the tune “I Hope You Had the Time of Your Life” blasted from loudspeakers; the gifted car will be used by the town. The Blue Springs plant has been refitted to produce the 12th-generation Corolla, touted as the best selling car ever made: “The first Corolla started production in Japan in 1966,” said Yasushi Ueda, Toyota’s chief engineer. Since then, he added, 46 million of the cars have been built and sold. Chris Reynolds, the company’s chief administration officer said “nothing is as exciting as coming to one of our great manufacturing facilities and introducing a new model. “The Corolla is how so many young buyers are introduced to Toyota,” he said. “Our real mission is to get better and better and better.” Reynolds also lauded the efforts of Sean Suggs, president of Toyota Mississippi, and his team members for their work to refit the plant and begin producing the new model: “Sean, you did the impossible,” he said. Toyota in Blue Springs, Suggs said, boasts 1,900 direct employees, with a total of about 6,700 statewide working in supplier and support companies and at the main plant. The company builds 170,000 Corollas a year in the 2 million square foot plant; it opened in the fall of 2011 on the 1,700-acre site just south of U.S. Hwy. 78/Interstate 22. The one millionth Corolla rolled off the line in 2017. The new Corolla effort includes a $170 million investment and the addition of 400 jobs. The company also plans to build a $10 million visitor and training center. “It is the team members that make it happen,” said Bryant. One of those team members, Kanesha Jackson, spoke of her rise from initial employment at the age of 20 to her current assembly team leader and key trainer at the plant: “I asked question every day,” she said. “I went from stilettos (high-heeled shoes) to steel toes (work boots) and I love it.” The crowd cheered. “We know Blue Springs, Mississippi, can make a great car,” said Reynolds. “We can’t make enough of them here in Blue Springs, Mississippi, to satisfy the demand,” Blue Springs is only one Toyota facility manufacturing Corollas. The ceremony concluded with an extravagant, catered buffet line and a 200-pound cake in the shape of the new Corolla.

C. Richard Cotton

243 County Road 783

Saltillo, Mississippi 38866

Writer/photographer/editor/author

662.231.6222 mobile

rcotton5@att.net

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