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Mazda Toyota says coronavirus will delay production start at Huntsville plant

"We are eager to keep the project moving forward and appreciate the ongoing support of all key stakeholders."

Posted: Apr 13, 2020 8:13 PM
Updated: Apr 14, 2020 7:56 AM

Mazda Toyota Manufacturing says issues related to coronavirus will delay the start of production of the plant “to a time period later in 2021.”

The $1.6 billion plant in Huntsville will build SUVs. The company and state and local officials have not been more specific than saying the plant will begin production in 2021.

An aerial view of Mazda Toyota Manufacturing, U.S.A., Inc. (MTM) while under construction. (Courtesy: MTM) Courtesy: Mazda Toyota Manufacturing, U.S.A., Inc.

“On April 9, we informed state and local government officials in Alabama, along with our key suppliers how the COVID-19 pandemic is impacting our ability to maintain critical equipment delivery schedules, creating labor shortages, and slowing construction,” said Toni Eberhart, Mazda Toyota spokesperson.

“As a result, we will delay the start of production of the Mazda Toyota Manufacturing plant to a time period later in 2021. We are eager to keep the project moving forward and appreciate the ongoing support of all key stakeholders.

Athens Mayor Ronnie Marks was one of the leaders Mazda Toyota contacted.

He said he believes the delay will be about five months. He also praised the company’s sound management in preparing for the delay. (See his full statement to WAAY 31 above)

Eberhart added: “MTM suspended normal construction activity at its site on April 4 in response to Gov. Ivey’s Stay at Home Order. We used this downtime to review enhanced guidelines, evaluate site conditions and further increase safety and social distancing efforts.

“As a result, any job at the site that cannot meet social distancing recommendations is temporarily suspended. With these measures in place, along with enhanced sanitization efforts, construction resumed on April 7 for work areas in which ADPH guidelines can be met.”

Gov. Kay Ivey released this statement: “I understand the challenges posed by COVID-19 to the construction and operation of a major manufacturing facility like Mazda Toyota Manufacturing USA. I am confident that the automakers will move forward on their adjusted timeline to begin production at the Alabama facility, where they will turn out world-class vehicles. We’ll work with company leaders to assist them to bring this project to completion.”

This is not the first coronavirus-related news at the plant. On Friday, Mazda Toyota announced that two contract construction workers had tested positive for coronavirus.

Here’s Eberhart’s statement:

As of April 10, Mazda Toyota Manufacturing (MTM) can confirm two cases of COVID-19 at the construction site. Those affected are contract construction workers, and their employers have taken immediate actions following Alabama Department of Public Health (ADPH) guidelines to minimize risk to others. Anyone who had direct contact with the affected individuals will remain quarantined for 14 days. Our thoughts are with the affected individuals and their family at this time.

With the safety and welfare of team members and construction workers as our top priority, MTM suspended normal construction activity at its site on April 4 in response to Gov. Ivey’s Stay at Home Order. We used this downtime to review enhanced guidelines, evaluate site conditions and further increase safety and social-distancing efforts. As a result, any job at the site that cannot meet social distancing recommendations is temporarily suspended. With these measures in place, along with enhanced sanitization efforts, construction resumed on April 7 for work areas in which ADPH guidelines can be met.

MTM and its business partners are in constant communication to assess the need to limit site activity to help protect the health and welfare of onsite workers.

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