Mazda Toyota reaches 4,000-employee goal, adds production

The plant is home to the Toyota Corolla Cross and the Mazda CX-50

Workers at the Mazda Toyota plant are proud of the vehicles they produce, including this Toyota Corolla Cross.

Mazda Toyota Manufacturing (MTM) reached its 4,000-employee commitment in 2023, and the company continues to hire and fill positions to expand its workforce. The addition last year of a second shift on the Discovery assembly line, which began producing the Mazda CX-50 in January 2022, provided the final push MTM needed to achieve its hiring goal.

“We were thrilled to start our second shift on the Discovery line,” says Jessica Luther, external affairs specialist for MTM, adding that the ramp up to full production also included introducing a second shift on the Apollo assembly line less than a year after the Toyota Corolla Cross started production in the fall of 2021.

MTM is the only manufacturer in North America that produces both the Mazda CX-50 and the Toyota Corolla Cross. The two side-by-side lines, Apollo and Discovery, are named as a tribute to Huntsville’s role in the U.S. space program.

Mazda Toyota Manufacturing team members build the Toyota Corolla Cross and the Mazda CX-50.

As of March 2023, Mazda and Toyota have invested $2.3 billion in the Huntsville plant that they jointly own and operate. The 3.7 million-square-foot facility has the capacity to assemble up to 300,000 vehicles each year, evenly split between the two manufacturers. Last year MTM received Gold Certified status from the Wildlife Habitat Council for its stewardship and conservation efforts.

MTM began production in 2021 with the Corolla Cross, Toyota’s first crossover vehicle. The compact SUV is offered in three grades and with front-wheel drive and all-wheel drive options. The model is available to dealerships in the continental United States and four U.S. territories and is exported to Canada and Mexico.

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The first-ever Mazda CX-50 rolled off the Discovery Line in January 2022 and was the first Mazda vehicle to be built at the Huntsville plant. The mid-size crossover SUV is available in eight packages with two engine options and equipped with all-wheel drive and different drive modes to handle a variety of driving conditions. It is available to dealerships in the continental United States and exported to Canada, Mexico and Colombia.

In addition to reaching production and employment milestones, MTM celebrated the five-year anniversary of its ground-breaking in November 2023. In conjunction with that event and the Community Foundation of Greater Huntsville’s (CFGH) Giving Tuesday event, the MTM Grant Fund provided $110,000 to 20 nonprofit organizations in the community: Arts Huntsville, Athens-Limestone County Public Library Foundation, Big Brothers Big Sisters of the Tennessee Valley, Calhoun College Foundation, Enable Madison County, Christmas Charities Year Round, Crisis Services of North Alabama, the Food Bank of North Alabama, Huntsville Community Drumline, Limestone County Career Technical Center, Madison City Schools, New Futures Inc., Still Serving Veterans, Thrive Alabama, United Cerebral Palsy of Huntsville & Tennessee Valley, the United Way of Madison County, the United Way of Morgan County, Village of Promise, Wellstone and Women’s Foundation of Alabama. Ten organizations received $1,000, and ten received $10,000.

That round of funding came on the heels of MTM awarding $150,000 to 12 local nonprofits in June 2023. Grant recipients included Huntsville Hospital Foundation, Family Services Center, NCAC, Heals Inc., KTECH/Kids to Love, ELM Foundation, Girls Inc., Kid ONE Transport, The Care Center, Huntsville Botanical Gardens, Still Serving Veterans and Cap & Gown Project.

The MTM Grant Fund, which is hosted on the CFGH platform, has awarded $340,000 in funding since 2022.

The Mazda Toyota plant reached its 4,000-employee goal in 2023.

MTM has also developed three internal workforce training and development programs: the LEAD Academy, the NAVIGATE Academy and the Production-to-Maintenance Program.

“We have learned so much from our parent companies at Mazda and Toyota,” says General Manager of Administration Jason Pickering. “But we recognized that it was time for MTM to develop our own training and development programs that fit the needs of our company and of our team members. It is important to our team that we develop pathways for growth and invest in our team.”

MTM’s LEAD Academy offers a four-week leadership development program for team leaders and a six-week program for group leaders. Classes focus on training and leadership skills, including seeing the plant from the perspectives of other leaders, sharing struggles and strengths, mental health awareness and learning about the legal parameters of being a leader.

The NAVIGATE Academy is a self-paced leadership fundamentals training program targeted to assistant managers.

The Production-to-Maintenance Program is a collaboration with the Alabama FAME (Federation for Advanced Manufacturing Education) Advanced Manufacturing Technician Program at Calhoun Community College. MTM opened up applications to production team members who would like to transition into a skilled labor role, and from those who applied, MTM chose 12 to complete the program this year.

MTM will continue to pay full wages and benefits to these team members while they work part-time at MTM and attend the FAME Program part-time each week for two years. At the end of the FAME Program, these team members will graduate and transition into new roles in MTM’s maintenance or tool-and-die departments where they will be eligible to make between $28 and $40 per hour.

Katherine MacGilvray is a Huntsville-based freelance contributor to Business Alabama.

This article appears in the March 2024 issue of Business Alabama.

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