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Marion's Hino plant will be bigger than planned

Toyota Motor Manufacturing North America recently announced plans to invest an additional $50 million to increase production at its plant currently under construction in San Antonio, Texas.

It's an expansion that will have an impact on another plant in the works some 630 miles away in Marion, Ark.

In May, Hino Motors Ltd. announced plans to build a $160 million Toyota (NYSE: TM) truck parts manufacturing facility on 160 acres in Marion, Ark. Construction on the plant started in July and it is set to open in October 2006. The plant was initially slated to employ 280 and produce parts for 300,000 automobiles a year, but those numbers could change with the news from Texas.

According to the Associated Press, Hino officials said the San Antonio plant expansion means there will have to be an expansion of the Marion facility, but they have not yet determined the specifics of how much additional production and space, or how many more employees it will require. Any additions would be in proportion to the needs of the San Antonio plant, which is now planned to produce 200,000 Toyota trucks annually.

The 50,000-truck-a-year production expansion in San Antonio will bring Toyota's investment there to $850 million. The company plans to begin production of their Tundra full-size pick-up there by the end of 2006, and Toyota officials say the expansion will allow them to respond quickly to increased demand for the popular truck model.

Marion, Ark.'s Railport Industrial Park was in the final running to get the Toyota truck manufacturing plant itself, but lost out to San Antonio last May.

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Kia eyeing Tupelo site for auto plant

Another major auto manufacturer may be moving to the region.

According to media reports, Kia Motors America is considering building a manufacturing plant in Mississippi. The state has two TVA-certified megasites available and suitable for such a plant -- the 1,200-acre PUL Alliance-Wellspring Project in Tupelo, Miss., which is about 100 miles southeast of Memphis, and the 1,400-acre Lowndes County-Golden Triangle Megasite, near Columbus, Miss.

Kia officials are also considering a 1,600-acre site in Hardin County, Ky., but say Mississippi is at the top of their list.

Kia Motors America is based in Irvine, Calif. Its parent company is Kia Motors Corp. of Seoul, South Korea, which produces 1.15 million vehicles a year. Kia sells its vehicles in more than 160 countries.

Kia officials also said they would be using information gathered by their parent company, Hyundai, during its search for a plant site in the Southeast. Hyundai opened its plant in Montgomery, Ala., in May 2005.

Kia officials provided no timeframe for how quickly they hope to select a site or get a plant up and running.

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