Investing in Toyota and Alabama

A new four-cylinder line, a $222 million investment, will produce engines for combustion and hybrid electric vehicles by late fall

Members of Toyota’s engine making team.

Toyota Motor Manufacturing, Alabama Inc., which is located in Huntsville, is an essential part of Toyota’s supply chain, producing one-third of all engines for Toyota vehicles assembled in the United States. It’s the only Toyota plant in North America to produce twin-turbo engines.

The coming year looks promising for the plant, says Jason Puckett, president of Toyota Alabama. “We are gearing up for growth,” he says. “Our new engine line will start up this year, but, to us, growth is more than just increased production. We want to be a force for growth and change in the community and be a true partner to all those folks fighting to help our city and state reach its amazing potential.”

The completion of the new four-cylinder line, which will include engines for hybrid electric vehicles (HEV), is expected by late fall. The company’s $222 million investment, announced last year, represents the 1.3 million-square-foot plant’s sixth building expansion on its 403-acre site. It’s the eighth major investment for a total of $1.5 billion.

Puckett is proud of the new line and the plant’s expansion. “With the creation of the new four-cylinder line, all four of our lines at Toyota Alabama will make combustion and HEV engines,” he says. “This milestone positions Toyota Alabama to play a major role in Toyota’s larger electrification strategy for years to come. As a company, we have to be forward thinking and make sure we are keeping the customer at the forefront of all our decisions.”

The Huntsville operation’s president notes that Toyota Alabama, which was established in 2001 and started production in 2003, has grown from 300 team members to more than 1,800 employees.

- Sponsor -

“Last year we celebrated our 20th anniversary with team members and their families with a concert at Toyota Field,” Puckett says. “We also hosted an open house for the first time in five years. After the disruption caused by COVID, gatherings and being able to connect with our team members outside of work and meet their families was very special.”

Toyota produced 665,000 engines at the Huntsville plant last year, all of which were shipped to six of Toyota’s U.S. plants.

The Toyota Alabama plant produces an average of 3,000 engines per day. Last year, 665,000 engines were built, compared to 642,000 engines in 2021. The plant has the capacity to build up to about 900,000 engines per year.

The Huntsville operation’s current line of four-cylinder engines, which started production in 2011, are used in RAV4, Corolla, Corolla Cross, Highlander and Sienna vehicles. The plant’s V-6 engines are built for Tacoma trucks, and its twin-turbo V-6 engines for Tundra trucks and Sequoia full-size SUVs.

Toyota made a $288 million investment to produce both a hybrid electric powered twin-turbo V-6 engine and gas-powered twin-turbo V-6 engine for the all-new 2022 Tundra. That investment kicked up employment at the plant by 450 workers to its current staffing level of 1,800, the largest hiring increase in the plant’s history.

The engines manufactured by Toyota Alabama are shipped to six of Toyota’s North American assembly plants, including plants in Mexico and Canada. While Toyota produced more than 1 million vehicles in the United States during 2020, more than 2 million were sold here.

Puckett expects the new four-cylinder engine line will bring exciting changes and challenges for the Huntsville staff and continue the operation’s need for skill development. “A quote that’s resonated with me lately from the father of TPS (Toyota Production System), Taiichi Ohno, is ‘People don’t go to Toyota to ‘work,’ they go there to ‘think,’” he says. “This is at the root of our focused development, to improve our members’ problem solving and analytical skills.”

According to Puckett’s company bio, he began his career in 1997 as an engineer at Toyota Indiana and worked his way up the corporate ladder, serving in roles including vice president of administration and vice president of manufacturing before taking his current role at Toyota Alabama in 2021.

“What’s unique about a career at Toyota, you are learning from the day you start at Toyota, until the day you retire,” Puckett says. “Creating those opportunities to learn and kaizen (Japanese for continuous improvement) are what keep our members engaged and ready for the next challenge.”

The Huntsville operation has additional good news for the coming year. Toyota recently announced that Toyota Alabama would be one of three pilot sites for the Driving Possibilities project, a $110 million national initiative to support PreK-12 education and beyond. “The goal of the initiative is to improve communities and get people excited and prepared for the job market,” Puckett says. “Toyota Alabama was selected, and we are looking forward to announcing several new partnerships later this year.”

Kathy Hagood is a Birmingham-based freelance contributor to Business Alabama.

This article appears in the March 2023 issue of Business Alabama.

The latest Alabama business news delivered to your inbox