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Start of new Toyota-Mazda plant production delayed by COVID-19

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The start of production at the joint-venture Toyota-Mazda assembly plant in Huntsville, Ala., will be delayed until later in 2021 because of setbacks related to the coronavirus pandemic.

“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,” Toni Eberhart, a spokeswoman for Mazda Toyota Manufacturing, said in a statement emailed to Automotive News.

“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.”

The plant was to begin production of 150,000 units each of a Toyota and a Mazda crossover yet to be named, beginning in 2021. Eberhart declined to comment on when production would start.

But in a document obtained by Automotive News, Toyota said the “890B project” will be impacted by COVID-19, and the start of production will be delayed by a “minimum of 5.5 months.”

Toyota and Mazda last year began construction on the $1.6 billion plant, which is expected to create 4,000 jobs.

The plant has experienced at least one delay this month related to the coronavirus. On April 4, construction activity was suspended in accordance with the governor’s stay-at-home order, Mazda Toyota Manufacturing said in a statement. Any job that could not meet social distancing recommendations was temporarily suspended. Work resumed April 7 for areas in which Alabama Department of Public Health guidelines could be met.

As of April 10, Mazda Toyota Manufacturing said it confirmed two cases of COVID-19 at the site. Anyone who had direct contact with the affected individuals were to remain quarantined for 14 days.

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