MAY 18, 2004 - Posted at 1:26 p.m. CDT
LITTLE ROCK, AR - Toyota's truck-making partner in Japan says it will break ground on a parts plant in Marion in July and may add a truck assembly plant to the site if American sales do well.
Executives for Hino Motors Limited of Tokyo told The Associated Press during a visit to Little Rock today that the parts plant would open on the 160-acre site in Crittenden County in 2006.
Hino's senior managing director, Bunji Hagiwara, said through an interpreter that the company has two main concerns about building a full truck assembly plant.
In addition to reaching their sales goals, Hagiwara said a recent ruling by the Environmental Protection Agency about air quality in Crittenden County would have to be studied. He also said the U.S. government requires that most of the components be American made, and Hino wants to study that too.
Hagiwara said Hino estimates employing 200 to 300 workers to start at the parts plant. He wouldn't comment on a pact with the city of Marion in which Hino reportedly committed to having a payroll of more than $12 million within four years of opening the plant.
Hagiwara said Hino wants to be able to sell at least 10,000 medium to heavy trucks in the U.S. market if it is to justify an assembly plant here. Right now, Hino exports 3,000 units a year to the U.S. It plans to have ready-made components assembled in the U.S. for the first time this year, at a plant near Los Angeles.