Toyota hopes car donations will make a difference

Northeast Mississippi Daily JournalJuly 10, 2014 

Toyota Plant Mississippi

ASSOCIATED PRESS/2011 State Treasurer-elect Lynn Fitch peers into the first Corolla made at the Blue Springs, Miss., facility following a ceremony marking the production start of the Toyota Motor Corporation's auto manufacturing plant in 2011. The company is donating test cars to technical schools so students can learn about automotive technology.

ROGELIO V. SOLIS — AP

TUPELO, Miss. -- Toyota Motor Manufacturing Mississippi can build up to 170,000 Corolla sedans a year, so it won't miss a few.

The plant donated six test vehicles Tuesday to career and technology centers in Lee, Pontotoc and Union counties, and another one to the Tupelo Automobile Museum.

The test cars, a mix of the 10th-generation Corolla and the 11th-generation model that came out last summer, will be used by the schools for the students to learn more about automotive technology.

The trial cars are built by staff at the Toyota plant in Blue Springs as they learn about the model and manufacturing process.

After the trial cars are built, they are donated to organizations to support vocational training, workforce development and safety.

Tupelo Career-Technical Center Director Evet Topp said the two cars she accepted are greatly appreciated.

"Students will be developing a great skill-set working on a new car like this," she said. "We had a Toyota donated a year or so ago by a third party, but this is the first time we've had something directly from the company."

It's Toyota Mississippi's second donation in as many years. In February 2013, it donated 29 cars worth about $400,000 to area emergency management agencies and community colleges.

Kirk Manley, the plant's general manager of production control, said Tuesday's donation was to help younger students learn the latest in automotive technology, perhaps providing a spark to a future Toyota team member.

"These cars have been put together and taken apart by our team members so that they know them from top to bottom," Manley said. "We hope that the kids will be taught the highly technical skills this area needs to stay competitive and grow for the future."

The cars aren't road-worthy and can't be sold, so they were loaded onto trucks to be taken to the respective schools, who each received two Corollas.

That's what Manley and Toyota officials hope will be the result as the automaker and its suppliers continue to look for workers.

"We want to make this a regular event," he said.

He said other career and technology schools, community colleges and universities in the regions would be included in future vehicle donations.

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