Building a factory from the ground up is a complicated undertaking, made even more so during a pandemic. “We’ve faced a number of tremendous challenges,” notes Mark Brazeal, Vice President of Administration for Mazda Toyota Manufacturing (MTM), regarding the joint venture’s construction of a $2.3 billion facility in Huntsville, Ala. expected to be operational sometime in 2021. “I’m very proud of all the teamwork, both within the company as well as in working with state and local agencies, that has enabled us to move forward during unprecedented conditions.”
Pictured above: Final panel of plant being installed May 2020; right: MTM Groundbreaking Ceremony robotic arm shoveling dirt. On stage Huntsville Mayor Tommy Battle, Senator Arthur Orr, Governor Kay Ivey November 2018.
While Toyota has an engine assembly plant in Huntsville, Brazeal notes that MTM conducted a thorough site selection process to pick the best location. “It came down to Huntsville and an area in North Carolina. We went with Huntsville because of the strong support of state and local partners as well as the quality of the community and its strong labor pool,” he says.
PARTNERING FOR THE FUTURE
The Huntsville factory is just one aspect of the Mazda and Toyota partnership, first announced in 2017, which includes joint development of safety technologies and connected vehicle information systems, as well as the design of an electric vehicle. While the companies share common corporate values, MTM is creating its own culture as a new endeavor separate from the parents.
“Two established automakers with well-regarded reputations came together to learn from each other and share technologies,” Brazeal explains. “Mazda’s lean manufacturing processes has helped Toyota improve its own production capabilities, while Mazda benefits from Toyota’s large North American footprint. The new facility is literally a groundbreaking example of how these two companies came together to form something entirely new and exciting.”
Even before COVID-19 forced everyone to re-evaluate safety protocols and general business conduct, MTM had to make several course corrections. One of the first led to a temporary halt in site prep work to protect the habitat of the rare pygmy sunfish, which only lives in a six mile portion of streams that could have been threatened by ongoing construction.
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