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Toyota to build new SUV in Huntsville instead of Corolla

Toyota on Wednesday announced that it is shifting future production plans at the under-construction Mazda Toyota Manufacturing U.S.A. (MTMUS) assembly plant in Huntsville.

Instead of assembling Corolla sedans, Toyota now plans to use the coming $1.6 billion Alabama plant as an opportunity to build a brand new, yet-to-be announced SUV.

Speaking to members of the Huntsville/Madison County Chamber of Commerce, Governor Kay Ivey on Wednesday quipped that the SUV is “so new they haven’t even got a name for it yet.”

Toyota said the shift is in response to changing market demands and a growing consumer appetite for light trucks and SUVs which are achieving record sales, including Toyota’s best-selling RAV4.

Reuters reported that Toyota last week said U.S. Corolla sales fell 5% in the first six months of 2019 to 152,868, while overall Toyota car sales fell 8%. In comparison, the company’s U.S. SUV sales only fell 1% over the same period.

More details related to the future built-in-Alabama SUV will be released at a later date, Toyota advised. Mazda previously said it would build a new SUV of its own at the joint venture plant, which will assemble up to 300,000 vehicles annually.

Corolla production will continue at Toyota’s Blue Springs, Mississippi plant.

Construction of MTMUS in north Alabama remains on schedule, with the start of production still expected to begin in 2021. Up to 4,000 new jobs will be created and hiring is already underway.

Ivey noted that the open date could now be closer to April 2021 instead of January 2021 factoring in the change in Toyota’s production plans.

“[T]his is good news because the SUV is a hot commodity and that means that facility and those [employees] will be engaged in production for longer than first intended with the sedan (Corolla),” she added.

Sean Ross is a staff writer for Yellowhammer News. You can follow him on Twitter @sean_yhn