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Toyota moves forward on U.S. plant

By Ben Rooney, staff reporter

NEW YORK (CNNMoney.com) -- Toyota announced plans Thursday to build Corollas at an unused plant in Mississippi beginning late next year.

The automaker said in a press release that it will start manufacturing the top-selling compact sedan at a facility in Blue Springs, Miss., beginning in the fall of 2011.

The automaker plans to hire 2,000 workers to staff the plant, which it said is nearly complete. Toyota announced plans to build the plant in 2007, but the project was put on hold a year later as the economy slowed and auto sales plunged.

"Toyota remains committed to making vehicles where we sell them and to maintaining a substantial manufacturing presence in North America," said Yoshimi Inaba, president and chief operating officer of Toyota Motor North America.

The plant was originally built to make the Highlander sport-utility vehicle and Prius hybrids. Toyota said it decided to build Corollas at the plant in order to begin production as soon as possible.

The move came as Toyota (TM) looks to recover from problems caused by massive recalls and production shutdowns this year. The company has recalled millions of vehicles worldwide for safety issues related to sudden acceleration and breaking problems.

But the decision to reopen the Mississippi plant suggests the automaker is trying to move past its recent troubles, and after a rebound in auto sales.

In May, U.S. auto sales increased 19%, compared to the very weak sales of a year earlier, according to sales tracker Autodata.

While there was an overall increase in sales, helped by large orders from businesses, Toyota's gain of 7% was weaker than industry experts expected.

By comparison, rival automakers General Motors and Ford (F, Fortune 500) both reported double-digit percentage sales gains in May.  To top of page

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