U.S. Toyota plants back at full pre-disaster production

Toyota announced Tuesday it has returned to full production in North America because it no longer faces a shortage of parts due to the earthquake and tsunami earlier this year that affected its Japanese suppliers.

The move came ahead of schedule, as the automaker had predicted it wouldn't return to full production until November or December.

"The recovery is a testament to the dedication and commitment of our North American team members, suppliers and business partners," Steve St. Angelo, chairman of the automaker's flagship plant in Georgetown, said in a statement. "All of us at Toyota greatly appreciate the patience and support of our customers and dealers, many of whom have made generous donations in support of the relief efforts in Japan."

The Georgetown plant, which builds the Camry, Camry Hybrid, Avalon and Venza, returned to full production earlier this summer. Other models that returned to full production at that time were the Corolla, Matrix, Highlander, Sienna and Sequoia.

Now back at full production are the Tacoma, Tundra, RAV 4 and Lexus RX 350.

In a statement, the automaker noted it now would "focus on replenishing dealer inventories through overtime and Saturday shifts at certain plants."

Georgetown spokesman Rick Hesterberg confirmed the plant already is working overtime as it is building the recently unveiled 2012 edition of the Camry, the best-selling car in the United States for 13 of the past 14 years.

After the March 11 disaster in Japan, the plant had continued normal operations until mid-April. At that point, it began idling production on select days, then settled into a schedule of less production to cope with parts shortages.