Toyota's Tijuana Plant Pumps Out Tacomas


As the No. 1 selling truck in the midsize pickup segment, the 2017 Toyota Tacoma has many secret weapons such as a new interior, Crawl Control, the new TRD Pro trim level and a high-tech 3.5-liter V-6 engine that uses both direct and port injection. But Toyota's biggest secret weapon of all may be the two production plants that build the Tacoma, something no other midsize pickup manufacturer does. The highly efficient production plant in Tijuana, Mexico, pumps out as many four-door Tacomas (called double cabs) as possible to keep up with demand.

According to Automotive News (subscription required), the Tijuana facility is running three shifts and producing more than double the number of Tacomas it did just five years ago, and dealers want more. It's worth noting the Tacoma has one of the shortest days-on-sales averages of any vehicle in the U.S. But where Toyota's San Antonio plant, which also builds Tacomas, is highly automated with many types of assembly and spot-weld robots, the Tijuana plant is not.

The Tijuana plant has fewer robots; Toyota instead chose to have human backups just in case the machinery goes down. Since the plant is remote (it doesn't have any suppliers on-site or a dedicated rail line to the facility), all the materials, powertrains, parts and raw materials that are not made at the plant have to be shipped in. That includes the parts, tools and diagnostic software that the robots might need for repair. So the Tijuana plant embraces the idea that the less advanced technology used, the better.

The Tijuana plant produces about 100,000 Tacoma double cabs annually, but the biggest bottleneck in the delivery system is that Mexico restricts crossing at the nearest border checkpoint to 12 hours a day. If Toyota is going to get more Tacomas out of Tijuana, it will have to do it with some kind of massively expensive expansion plan, likely needing at least one dedicated rail line and help from the Mexican government to keep the nearest border crossing open 24 hours.

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