Editors note: An earlier version of this story misstated the timing and the scale of Toyotas temporary reassignment of Tupelo workers to Georgetown. Some of the employees may be moved.
BIRMINGHAM, Ala. -- Toyotas stalled Prius factory project in Tupelo, Miss., might not be a Prius factory when work on the plant finally resumes.
The company is entertaining new ideas about other products it could build there, said Steve St. Angelo, senior vice president of Toyota Motor Engineering & Manufacturing North America Inc.
Were very committed to that plant, St. Angelo said here late yesterday. But were looking at our whole portfolio and asking which products it makes sense to build or not build in North America.
St. Angelo, who spoke yesterday at the Automotive News Manufacturing Conference, said Toyotas most pressing issue is getting all of its plants and employees back to working at full speed before resuming the Tupelo project.
He said no change to the plan has been made. But he acknowledged that it might be possible to produce the Prius hybrid at a different North American assembly plant and to use the Tupelo site for a different vehicle.
He said the project would not go forward until we understand exactly what were going to build in the United States.
Toyota broke ground on the $1.3 billion Tupelo plant in 2006 to produce Highlander crossovers. Last summer the automaker delayed the project and then later changed plans to produce the Prius there instead. But last December, Toyota halted the project indefinitely, opting to finish construction of the building shell and wait for market conditions to improve.
Whatever Toyota builds at Tupelo will fall under St. Angelos responsibility. Toyota Motor Manufacturing Kentucky in Georgetown, where St. Angelo is also president, will supervise the project when it resumes.
Toyota may temporarily move some of Tupelo's approximately 100 employees to Georgetown.