U.S.: Toyota production returns to normal after earthquake image

At the LA Motor Press Guild, Steve St. Angelo confirmed that Toyota’s North American production has returned to 100 percent, after a six-month slowdown following the March earthquake and tsunami in Japan.

Toyota has initially forecast that it would not be able to return to normal production levels until November or December. Its sales have been hit hard by long waiting lists for popular models.

In June, eight of the company’s 12 North American-built models returned to 100 percent, including Avalon, Camry, Corolla, Matrix, Highlander, Sienna, Sequoia and Venza. Tuesday’s announcement means that four remaining vehicles — Tacoma, Tundra, RAV 4 and Lexus RX 350 — are also back to full production.

Over all, Toyota’s sales in the United States have fallen 8 percent this year, while total industry sales have increased nearly 11 percent. Toyota and Honda, both based in Japan, are the only major automakers whose sales are down in 2011.

“The recovery is a testament to the dedication and commitment of our North American team members, suppliers and business partners,” said Steve St. Angelo, vice president of Toyota Motor Engineering & Manufacturing.

“All of us at Toyota greatly appreciate the patience and support of our customers and dealers, many of whom have made generous donations in support of the relief efforts in Japan.”

On the same time, the automaker will also add production of four-cylinder engines at its plant in Huntsville, Alabama, St. Angelo said. The giant will hire 240 more workers at the factory and the initial production will start late this month.