Local auto industry still in high gear

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By Geoff Hamill

Much of the automobile industry has found itself stuck in low gear lately, and with the recall of several models of Toyota vehicles, you might expect factories producing parts for the company to slow down or come to a complete stop, but that has not been the case.


Dianne Kelly, human resources manager for Toyotomi, said the company is not only maintaining its production staff, but it’s looking to fill some open positions.

“We have been fortunate that we have not had to resort to layoffs during the last 18 months, which have been difficult for the auto industry as a whole,” Kelly said.

According to Kelly, about half of Toyotomi’s work is in service parts. She said this is typically the company’s busiest time of the year.

“October through January are our busiest months, between the weather and people having wrecks,” Kelly said. “If someone wrecks and needs a fender or a hood for a past-production model Toyota, this is where it’s going to come from.”

John Simpson is human resource manager for INOAC, a local company producing interior components for automobiles, including Toyota. He said his company had to stop production briefly because Toyota had stopped work at its manufacturing plants.

“The recall itself didn’t necessarily affect us, but Toyota shutting down their production plants last week did have an impact,” Simpson said. “It caused us to have to have some people off work for the week.”

Simpson said Toyota’s plants were closed for the week of Feb. 1-5, and as a result, INOAC had to have about 120 people off work. He added that those workers have now returned to their jobs.

In an interview through an interpreter, Toyotomi America President Yukihiko Ushiro said he feels the future is still uncertain, but he is looking forward to a strong local partnership between his company and the Springfield-Washington County community.

“The automotive industry as a whole is coming back little by little,” he said. “While the interruption in production is causing some problems, there is going to be a chance for us (Toyotomi) to grow even more in the future. In order to do that, support from the community is essential, and I hope we can continue to get that support.”

Hal Goode, director of the Springfield-Washington County Economic Development Authority, said the local community, as well as the entire state, have quality partners in the automobile industry.

“We have a valuable friend here in Kentucky with Toyota.  No other automobile manufacturing business in my memory has addressed safety issues in such an emphatic manner by not only recalling vehicles, but also voluntarily stopped production of those vehicles until safety issues  were resolved,” Goode said. “At the same time, the company never laid off  a single employee, despite the impact.

“Springfield also has a valuable friendship with its existing business.  Our community  is fortunate with our strong local manufacturers, and SWEDA will continue to support them to expand and provide valuable jobs to our community.”