Raw Japan

Slices of Japanese business, politics and life

from Route to Recovery:

Toyota plant workers sheltered from the downturn


HUNTSVILLE, Alabama – When the call came in on July 4, 2008 that Toyota was going halt production for three months, Wes Woods was getting ready to watch a fireworks display with his children.

“I was told that not only were we going to stop production, but that we had to come up with a three-month training plan for all our team members within two days,” said Woods, assistant general manager at the Toyota engine plant here.

The extreme slump in auto sales, which peaked at 17 million in 2005 but are expected to barely pass 10 million this year, forced domestic auto companies GM and Chrysler into government-led bankruptcy, and they shuttered plants, slashed their dealership networks and cut tens of thousands of jobs in order to receive government aid.

This Toyota plant, which began production in 2003 and makes big truck engines, did things differently.