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Toyota celebrates 10 millionth unit in Buffalo

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If every powertrain built in Toyota's Buffalo plant in Putnam County was lined up from the door of its plant in West Virginia, it would extend beyond California and well into the Pacific Ocean.

Every 20 seconds, a Toyota vehicle is coming off of an North American assembly line with a powertrain made at Toyota Motor Manufacturing West Virginia. This week, the company celebrated production of its 10 millionth unit, the first plant outside of Japan to reach that mark.

"We will continue to expand here in North America," said James Lentz, chief executive officer in the North American Region.

Together, the 10 million units produce about 1 billion horsepower.

In celebration of that event, the plant donated $32,500 to local school programs for advanced manufacturing training.

"From the very beginning, our mission was to support Toyota's growing North America operations by building high-quality powertrains for our customers," said TMMWV President Yogi Suzuki. "Our team members' focus on quality, safety and their commitment to continuous improvement is second to none. West Virginia has been and will continue to be an important part of Toyota's efforts to localize production in North America."

The company produces four-cylinder and V6 engines and 6-speed automatic transmissions for its plant with more than 1,300 team members, four times as many as when the plant opened in 1998. Since then, Toyota has invested about $1.3 billion in the Buffalo facility.

The plant has gone through seven expansions since it opened.

West Virginia officials were on hand to praise the milestone. Sen. Jay Rockefeller said that 20 years ago, Toyota was but "a hope and a dream." Now, he said, Toyota is showing that doing business with Japan, historically a more isolated country, could be a lucrative exchange for West Virginia.

"In a sense, they have discovered the world and the world is discovering them." Rockefeller said.  

Rockefeller also emphasized the community value of the plant.

"Today represents more than just the units produced; it represents a better life for families and new growth for the Buffalo community and our state."

Sen. Joe Manchin said he uses Toyota as an example of the success possible in West Virginia when he talks to those interested in investing in the state.

"With corporate partners like Toyota, we are truly building a brighter future for West Virginia," Manchin said.

Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin said he is glad to exchange hospitality between Japanese business executives and West Virginia officials.

"I want to offer my personal congratulations to every team member for a job well done," Tomblin said.

Rep. Shelley Moore Capito sent a representative and a recorded message. She also issued a statement congratulating the company.

"Keep growing," Capito said. "Keep building. And keep powering our nation's automobiles."