Production of the all-new '04 Toyota Sienna minivan has begun on a new line, in a new home in Princeton, IN, that gives the Japanese auto maker the flexibility to better meet market demand for light trucks.
Toyota Motor Mfg. Indiana has invested $2 billion in Princeton to date, to assemble fullsize Tundra pickups and Sequoia SUVs, as well as the second-generation Sienna.
The Indiana plant began Tundra production in January 1999 with a single shift and 1,300 workers. The Sequoia was added in September 2000, and the workforce swelled to 2,300. The line, with a capacity of 150,000 units on two shifts, is known as the West plant.
The footprint was doubled with the addition of the East plant to accommodate Sienna. It required doubling the body shop area, a second paint shop and second final assembly line. The Sienna line will raise employment to 4,700.
Total investment in the 4 million-sq.-ft. plant (270,000 sq.-m) plant is $2 billion. Each vehicle is framed in its section of the body shop; the body-on-frame pickup heads west and the unibody minivan heads east. The body-on-frame SUV can go either way, giving Toyota the flexibility to vary the mix to react to market conditions. Toyota began running about 50 Sequoias a day down the new line in Princeton last fall, to debug it before the Sienna launch.
While there is a lot of hard tooling in the old section of the body shop, the addition incorporates the Toyota Global Body Line with robots that can be programmed to build anything, with software changes.
When it is time for the second-generation Tundra and Sequoia, Toyota may invest in the more flexible global line for the original section of the body shop. There also is room to expand on the 1,160-acre (470-ha) site.
The first-generation minivan was built in Georgetown, KY, but was moved to Princeton to make room for the Solara, which in turn was moved from facilities in Cambridge, Ont., Canada, that are gearing up to make the new Lexus RX 330 cross/utility vehicle. The '03 Sienna ceased production at the end of December. The plant is expected to hit full production May 1.