Toyota is asking some employees at a struggling Indiana plant whether they would like to work at its Georgetown factory in the coming months.
Full-time employees at Georgetown wouldn't be affected, but the plant's temporary workforce might be, the company said.
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The Princeton, Ind., plant produces the Sienna van, as well as the Tundra truck and Sequoia SUV. But it's losing the Tundra as part of a reorganization that consolidates that manufacturing in Texas.
The Sequoia has also ceased production until at least November, said Toyota spokesman Mike Goss, because of high inventory.
The plant is retooling that assembly line to produce the Highlander SUV, but that won't be complete until next year.
Princeton employees were told in meetings this week that they could head to Georgetown to most likely work on the assembly lines that produce the Camry, Camry Hybrid, Avalon, Solara and soon the Venza crossover vehicle.
Those interested are to submit forms on Friday. Arrangements for issues like housing have not been addressed yet, Goss said, nor has the program as a whole. ”Even if people express interest, there's no guarantee this will happen.“
He said Toyota is dedicated to not laying off its full-timers at Princeton.
Georgetown is just one of a few options. The company is ”developing extensive training programs“ and also asking employees to work on the so-called kaizen processes, or ways to improve efficiencies in the assembly process.
Others are being asked whether they would consider working at a Subaru plant in Lafayette, Ind., that produces Camrys. (Toyota owns a stake in Subaru's parent company.)
The impact in Georgetown, which has nearly 7,000 full-time employees and about 590 temporary workers in production, is ”still very unclear,“ Goss said.
”The (temporary) work force is there to give us some flexibility, so we can protect the jobs of our permanent team members,“ he said. ”But we certainly want to minimize impact on them.“
The company has not hired full-timers from its temporary pool in recent months because of the economic downturn, said spokesman Rick Hesterberg.
”The whole industry is slow right now,“ Goss said. Georgetown ”is essentially the plant that we've got that's in the best shape because it's building cars, not trucks.“
The Princeton plant has 4,600 full-time staffers, of which about 2,000 work on the Tundra and Sequoia, Goss said.
It's not clear how many could be temporarily assigned to Georgetown.
In other news, plant president Steve St. Angelo told a group in Detroit this week that the factory will continue to produce the Solara for two more years.
Goss said that statement may have been premature, as Toyota is committed to keeping the Solara convertible only through the end of the year.
The company had planned to cease production of the vehicle earlier this year and replace it at the factory with the Venza. A Toyota Motor Sales spokesman told the Herald-Leader last week that it will keep around the convertible model. The coupe model will no longer be built.
In July, the plant built about 1,700 Solaras, of which 1,200 were the convertible model, Hesterberg said.
Goss estimated on Thursday that only a couple of hundred of the convertibles may be built per month going forward.