By Paul Gattis
While a formal announcement is expected later this week, Mazda Toyota has started production at its $2.3 billion plant in Huntsville in what is a momentous event for Alabama.
Evidence has been building for several weeks indicating that production was taking place, including a photo of dozens of identical cars parked closely together outside the Limestone County car manufacturing facility.
On Tuesday, during a presentation at a housing summit in Huntsville, Ken Smith, senior director for Research & Information Services at the Huntsville-Madison County Chamber of Commerce, told an audience of about 200 people that production had started at Mazda Toyota.
The company, which began construction on its Huntsville plant in 2018, has scheduled an event for Thursday that will “celebrate a milestone,” according to the media advisory. MTM President Masashi Aihara is scheduled to speak at the event along with other MTM officials and Huntsville Mayor Tommy Battle.
On Battle’s public schedule for this week, the event was described as “Apollo Milestone Event.” Apollo is the name of Toyota’s assembly line at the plant where the Corolla Cross – unveiled in June – will be built. At the Corolla Cross unveiling, plant officials said the compact SUV was expected to be in dealer showrooms by the end of the year.
In a statement Sept. 17 to AL.com responding to an inquiry about the aerial photos that appear to show dozens of newly-manufactured vehicles outside the plant, the company said it was “productions preparations” that have been ongoing for several months. The company also said it had not reached “official Start of Production.”
The plant’s other assembly line, Discovery, will manufacture a still-to-be-announced Mazda vehicle.
Media covering the automotive industry have reported that the Corolla Cross will be available in October with prices ranging from $23,410 to $28,840 depending on trim packages and options.
Announced in 2018, Mazda Toyota is believed to be the state’s single largest economic development. MTM is obligated to ultimately hire at least 4,000 people under a development agreement with the city of Huntsville.
The plant has the capacity to build 300,000 vehicles per year evenly split between the Toyota and Mazda vehicles.