When Japanese companies Toyota and Mazda announced at the beginning of August that they planned to invest $1.6bn in a joint venture auto manufacturing plant in the US, speculation immediately turned to where exactly this plant would be.
It was initially assumed the plant would be close to Toyota’s existing facility in Blue Springs, Mississippi, where it has produced Corollas since manufacturing operations began in 2011. Sourcing parts, for starters, would presumably be easier in Mississippi, especially as Mazda does not have its own plant in the US nor, obviously, a supplier network.
Indeed, with some 4000 jobs at stake – the number of positions this plant is estimated to create – the state of Mississippi is eager to expand its partnership with Toyota to include this new venture. “Mississippi is working hard to grow our automotive manufacturing industry,” Mississippi governor Phil Bryant wrote in a Facebook post. “Toyota in Blue Springs is a success story known around the world.”
But reports from the Wall Street Journal suggest Mississippi has quite a bit of competition. Close to a dozen US states are under consideration to be a site for the plant, with Alabama, Florida, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kentucky, Michigan, Mississippi, North Carolina, South Carolina and Texas on the shortlist.
A closer look at the joint venture plans does suggest the new plant’s requirements will be different in some respects to those Blue Springs currently supports. Besides producing the vehicles, the site is also expected to jointly develop technologies for electric vehicles, develop connected-car technology and collaborate on advanced safety techniques.
Another factor to consider is Toyota’s plant in Guanajuato, Mexico, currently under construction. Toyota has said it will manufacture its Tacoma model there and that the new US plant will not affect Guanajuato’s production.
Not that Mississippi is giving up. When Toyota first came to the state, it was welcomed with a $358.5m incentive package. Mr Bryant has told reporters he is prepared to do what it takes to secure another plant – though, presumably, so is the competition.