Toyota starts production of 2011 Sienna at Indiana plant

Toyota has started the production of its all-new 2011 Sienna minivan at Toyota Motor Manufacturing,

The new Sienna was styled at the company's Calty design research center in Newport Beach, California, and developed at its technical center in Ann Arbor, Michigan.

Toyota said that the production of new Sienna and Highlander, that began last October, is a good news for Indiana plant as it was underutilized during the current economic downturn.

TMMI was at crossroads in mid-2008 as Toyota experienced overcapacity in North America, and as partial solution, consolidated production of Tundra full-size pickup, originally built at TMMI, into its Texas facility. The company also decided to begin building Highlander mid-size SUV in Indiana by late 2009.

Prior to the start of Highlander production, TMMI was temporarily left with only two vehicles, the Sienna minivan and Sequoia full-size SUV, on its pair of assembly lines.

The company has also invested approximately $450m to upgrade the plant and, with the start of Highlander production at TMMI last October and the recent launch of Sienna, the plant's outlook has improved.

Wil James, senior vice president of TMMI, said: "Without a doubt, our team members were worried. Layoffs were happening all over the auto industry. It would be many months before Highlander production began. As a result, half of our team members were not building vehicles. It made more sense to further invest in our experienced team members. We refocused our work. When we weren't building vehicles, we were preparing for a brighter future."