BUFFALO, W.Va. -- After production slowdowns and numerous non-production days as a result of the Great Recession, vehicle recalls and parts shortages caused by the March 11 earthquake and tsunami in Japan, Toyota's plant here is making engines and transmissions again.
Last week was the last non-production week on the plant's schedule. Employees report for work and are paid on non-production days but don't make any engines or transmissions. Instead, they train and work on quality improvements. Some voluntarily work on community projects.
Throughout the economic downturn, recalls and disasters in Japan, Toyota has not laid off any full-time employees.
"It's great to be back in business," Sandra Maynard, external affairs specialist at the plant, said on Tuesday.
On May 11, Toyota announced it would boost production in North America earlier than expected following the earthquake and tsunami. The company said that beginning this month, overall North American production would reach approximately 70 percent of normal levels, up from approximately 30 percent in May.
Toyota said its goal is to return to fully normalized production by late this year.
Toyota Motor Sales U.S.A. reported May sales of 108,387 units, a 27.9 percent decrease compared to the same month a year ago. Bob Carter, Toyota Division group vice president and general manager of Toyota Motor Sales U.S.A., said in a June 1 prepared statement, "As expected, May was an especially challenging month due mainly to uncertainties about our production forecast. But thanks to the tremendous efforts of our manufacturing team members and suppliers, we are ramping up much faster than expected.
"Beginning this month, Japan production will be at 90 percent of normal levels, and eight of 12 North American-built vehicles will be at 100 percent," he said. "With more vehicles arriving at our dealerships and enhanced dealer support programs gaining traction with customers, we're optimistic that our sales outlook will continue to improve."
Last week, when the Buffalo plant was not producing, about 60 employees volunteered to help refurbish four houses in Ceredo that are owned by Golden Girl Group Home, a nonprofit organization that provides shelter for 24 dependent, neglected and pre-delinquent girls who are unable to make a successful adjustment in their natural homes or foster care homes.
On Tuesday, a Toyota employee who is a native of Hawaii gave a presentation about the 50th state at George Washington Elementary School.
Toyota has nearly 1,100 employees at Buffalo and a more than $110.5 million annual payroll.
Contact writer George Hohmann at busin...@dailymail.com or 304-348-4836.