CHARLESTON, W.Va. - State and company officials praised the 1,300 workers at the Toyota Motor Manufacturing plant in Buffalo Wednesday, as the plant celebrated production of its 10 millionth powertrain engine unit.
The plant, which began production in 1998, is now the first Toyota plant outside of Japan to produce 10 million powertrain units -- the components, including engines and automatic transmissions, which produce energy and make a vehicle go.
The Buffalo plant currently produces engine parts for nine different Toyota and Lexus models assembled at plants across North America.
Every 20 seconds, a Toyota vehicle rolls off a North American assembly line containing a powertrain product produced in Buffalo.
"West Virginia has been and will continue to be an important part of Toyota's efforts to localize production in North America," said Yogi Suzuki, president of Toyota Motor Manufacturing, West Virginia, Inc.
One of every four Toyota vehicles on the road today contains a Buffalo-manufactured product. The combined output of all engines produced at the plant since 1998 tops 1 billion horsepower.
Suzuki said if you lined up every part produced at the plant since production began in 1998, the line would stretch for more than 3,000 miles.
Officials said the key to that success is the plant's 1,300-strong workforce.
"Our team members' focus on quality, safety and their outstanding commitment to continuous improvement and teamwork is second-to-none," Suzuki said.
Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., called the plant's workforce "the greatest selling tool we have in West Virginia," because of their quality, safety and production record.
Jim Lentz, CEO of Toyota Motor North America, said his office constantly receives letters from satisfied customers who say their engine drives as well at 100,000 miles as the day it left the showroom.
He said that was a testament to the quality of work at plants like Buffalo.
Toyota recently announced it would expand Lexus production in the United States as part of the company's strategy to localize production in markets around the world.