The Toyota plant in Kentucky logged so much overtime in 1998 that officials told workers they planned to cut back this year.
But no such luck.
Toyota Motor Manufacturing, Kentucky Inc. now plans to add the overtime back on. Production shortfalls caused by winter storms and bigger-than-expected sales orders won't let the plant slow down for 1999.
This year was supposed to offer a respite. The company even issued a public statement saying that 1999 production likely would be 20,000 less than last year's 476,203 cars and minivans.
The 5-year-old Avalon sedan, built exclusively at Georgetown, undergoes its first complete revamping this fall. Toyota builds Avalons and Camrys on the same line.
It planned to cut back Camry production in order to make the Avalon changeover easier. Toyota's Camry plant in Tsutsumi, Japan, would pick up the slack.
But one week into the new year, an ice storm hit northern Kentucky and forced Toyota to close for a shift and a half. The closure knocked 1,400 cars out of the schedule.
At the same time, Toyota Motor Sales U.S.A. Inc. revised its sales forecast and asked Georgetown for more product. The California sales arm has told the plant that it can sell every Camry the plant can build.
'The forecasts for the spring are coming in higher than we expected, so it doesn't look like we'll get much of a breather,' said Georgetown spokesman Tom Harris.
'We were expecting a dip in production, but now those numbers are going right back up,' he said.
The operation averaged 36 minutes of overtime per shift per day last year. Some of that overtime took the form of Saturday work.
Harris said overtime will be scheduled for February to make up the 1,400 lost vehicles. The additional orders from the sales company will have to be added on top of that.
The Tsutsumi plant will make up some of the slack, but like other Japanese automakers, Toyota is politically sensitive about increasing imports from Japan.
About 20 percent of the Camrys sold in the United States still come from Japan.
Toyota kept the Japanese pipeline open for Camrys primarily to ensure an adequate supply of the car as sales grew. But the strategy also gives Toyota more flexibility in cases such as the one the company now faces.