Toyota: Continuously Improving Georgetown

The legendary assembly plant (and there is a powertrain plant there, too) is getting a serious refresh

By Gary S. Vasilash

Toyota’s Georgetown, Kentucky plant—the company’s original manufacturing operation in the U.S.—is undergoing a transformation. One that is based on a $461-million investment.

Susan Elkington, president of the facility known as TMMK: “As Toyota’s most experienced assembly plant in the U.S.”—it has been in operation for 35 years—“with a workforce of about 9,000, TMMK must transform physically and strategically to meet the changing needs of customers.”

Toyota Georgetown plant (Image: Toyota)

They are going to improve the plant layout to improve operational capability and to allow it to produce new products (it builds the Camry, Camry Hybrid, RAV4 Hybrid, Lexus ES and Lexus ES Hybrid right now; the Lexus models will be moving to Japan).

In 2023 they will start producing fuel cell modules in Georgetown.

They will be adding a 2.4-liter turbo line in the plant.

And while it has some 1,400 variable team members—meaning they work for Kelly Services, not Toyota directly—they will be offered jobs by Toyota, too.

The Georgetown plant, for years, was a place that other OEMs wanted to tour in order to see how Toyota does it.

Presumably how they do it will be even better.

Rivian’s Second Factory

And what about its first?

By Gary S. Vasilash

Word is that Rivian, the company that will be producing an electric pickup—the R1T—and an SUV—the R1S—at its factory in Normal, Illinois (quite a name for a burg, if there ever was one), where it is also producing commercial vehicles for Amazon, which is one of its investors (as are Ford, Cox Automotive and others), is looking for a plot of land upon which to build a second factory with a 200,000-vehicle per year capacity.

Seems like the company has big aspirations.

And on the subject of big, it also seems that Texas has the inside track on the factory.

But here’s the thing: the 2.6-million square foot factory in Normal has capacity of over 200,000 vehicles.

You’d think, perhaps, that they would want to make sure that (1) they have all of the bugs worked out of the processes and (2) that they would have sufficient demand for their vehicles before looking to spend a rumored $5-billion on a second factory.

Of course, factories don’t go up overnight.

That said: Might this not be a bit premature?

Ford Transit: They Made a Million of ‘Em

Productive people at Ford Kansas City

By Gary S. Vasilash

Vehicle plants that make a million vehicles of one type are comparatively rare, so a nod to the folks at the Ford Kansas City Assembly Plant, who made the millionth Transit commercial van there this week.

Consider this: the Transit comes in various lengths, from 217.8 inches to 263.9 inches. So let’s take something about in the middle, 235.5 inches. A million Transits parked nose to tail would be about 3,800 miles long. That’s a lot of trucks. (Image: Ford)

The plant began production of the vehicle in 2014.

Undoubtedly as a result of their expertise (and the tooling on had probably plays a role, too), they’ll start building the E-Transit, an all-electric cargo hauler, later this year.

For the Want of a Chip

GM announces more downtime at assembly plants

The GM Fairfax Assembly & Stamping plant produces the Chevy Malibu and Cadillac XT4. CAMI produces the Chevy Equinox. At the San Luis Potosi plant it’s the Equinox, Chevy Trax and GMC Terrain.

Today all three of these plants, which have been on downtime shifts, have had their downtime extended.

At San Luis Potosi through the end of March. At the other two assembly plants: “to at least mid-April.”


The shortage of semiconductors.

GM is using its available chips for its “most popular and in-demand products”—like, not surprisingly, full-size trucks and SUVs.

This is completely understandable. Well, the selection of what to build is, at least.

GM has some of the best people in any industry when it comes to dealing with suppliers. While the pandemic certainly caused a shift in priorities not only when it came to vehicle purchases but also the demand for silicon-based products for those suddenly working and learning from home, it seems as though when it comes to traditional sourced components GM (and other OEMs) are masterful.

But it seems that when it come to silicon and having to compete with consumer electronics manufacturers it is an entirely new challenge.–gsv