Mazda and Toyota last November. At the time, it was believed that the plant would initially produce the current-generation Toyota Corolla, eventually growing to include an as-yet unnamed Mazda crossover. Now, those plans have changed.
Toyota announced on Wednesday that it will replace the Corolla's spot in its new Alabama JV with a "new, yet-to-be announced SUV." The automaker offered no additional details about the SUV or where it would land in the automaker's lineup. As for the Corolla, it will continue to be built at Toyota's plant in Blue Springs, Mississippi.
The reason for the shift is pretty straightforward. In its release, Toyota cites "changing market demands and a growing consumer appetite for light trucks and SUVs," which has been the direction the market's been moving for years now.
That much is evident in sales numbers. The Corolla is the world's best-selling vehicle, and it's still showing strong in the US, with monthly sales this year hovering around 20,000 units. But the RAV4 is even more popular, commanding north of 30,000 sales per month. Finding another RAV4-like success story would do more for Toyota than simply boosting Corolla production.
The $1.6 billion Mazda Toyota Manufacturing USA facility in Huntsville should be up and running in 2021. Hiring is already happening, and the plant is expected to create about 4,000 new jobs. It's Mazda's first factory in the US, if you don't count the brief slice of time the automaker shared production with Ford.