Mississippi plant to build SUVs as planned

JACKSON, Miss. — A consultant for Toyota Motor Corp. said Monday the automaker won't retool its plans to build Highlander sport utility vehicles at a plant under construction in north Mississippi, despite the trend of people seeking more fuel-efficient cars.

Dennis Cuneo said the Highlander is a car-based SUV and that ”its sales are doing well.“

”The auto industry is a cyclical industry,“ Cuneo said. ”Toyota believes in the long run this is going to be a good place to manufacture and build vehicles.“

Toyota spokesman Victor Vanov confirmed that the automaker's focus at the Mississippi plant would be the Highlander.

Highlander U.S. sales in May were down 9.6 percent compared with May 2007, Autodata Corp said. However, sales from January through May were up 1.9 percent from a year earlier. The overall market for new car sales during that time was down 8 percent.

The plant near Blue Springs, Miss., is scheduled to begin production in 2010.