Toyota's Texas Job Bank Open Until April 2009. Or Longer.
October 14th, 2008 7:15 AM Share
If you’re wondering about the reason behind Toyota’s $250m zero percent marketing blitz, look no further than their very own job bank. Unlike The Big 2.8’s top-secret pool of idled workers, ToMoCo’s labor reservoir is a matter of company policy, not union contracts. With Tundra sales as frozen as the truck’s namesake (down 61 percent in September!), something had to give. The Wall Street Journal reports that “the Toyota plant here in southwestern Indiana and another in San Antonio, Texas, stopped making pickup trucks at the beginning of August. About half of the 4,000 workers are expected to resume making vehicles in November, and now Toyota says the rest won’t likely be back on the assembly line until at least April.” Putting a happy face on a bad situation, “senior plant manager Norm Bafunno said he can already see the benefits of the training. Mr. Bafunno cites a Teflon ring designed by an assembly worker during the down time that helps prevent paint damage when employees install an electrical switch on the edge of a vehicle’s door.” This problem was causing workers to have to do a bit of paint buffing on one or two trucks per shift, back when they were actually building trucks. Meanwhile, have you noticed how little news we’ve heard about United Auto Workers’ efforts to organize the transplants?
Published October 14th, 2008 7:15 AM
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Its one of my pet theories that the only people who truly benefit in the long term from unions are the non-union workers. They get good pay and benefits for fear of them unionizing, and they work at companies who are flexible enough to stay healthy, so they are less likely to end up doing a cameo in Mikey & Me.
Noreserve, you are onto a key difference between Honda and Toyota. Honda only builds vehicles off of a very few platforms and using a lot of common components. No body on frame anything, for example. Pilot and Ridgeline took a lot of heat for not being "real SUV/Trucks", but Honda made some money while the making was good, yet preserved flexibility. Honda has forever focused on the fact that because they are smaller than Toyota they have to do more with less. Toyota wanted in on the US truck boom and played all-in to try and get there. So they have a dedicated $2b factory in San Antonio which wasn't set up to build anything but big trucks. Nissan avoided that mistake when they went after the same market with the Titan by building it in a highly flexible factory which is building everything from Altimas to Titans (Canton, Miss). Unfortunately, Canton hasn't exactly been a paragon of quality or efficiency. The Titan is now all but dead with a planned replacement via badge engineering the Dodge Ram.
There's no reason for the UAW to work on organizing transplants currently - they're doing political action work. After "card check" passes early in 2009 (this is assuming an Obama presidency), all the transplants will be organized within 24 months.
John Horner: Good point about the body-on-frame difference. I imagine that complicates things. I'll check into the Canton plant out of curiosity. Well, a quick search found this http://www.detnews.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=/20060107/AUTO01/601070335/1148 Not good. It would be interesting to find out how many of those problems in the Canton plant are related to being a flexible manufacturing plant versus just poorly designed/manufactured parts.