What do James Earl Jones, Lance Bass, Faith Hill and the next-generation Toyota Prius all have in common? They call the great state of Mississippi home.
The Japanese automaker has announced plans to bring the production of the next-generation Toyota Prius to a new plant in Blue Springs, Mississippi.
When the soon-to-be-opened plant was originally announced, it was to make room for the annual production of 200,000 Toyota Highlander crossover SUVs. With the SUV and truck vehicle being hit the hardest by rising gas prices, Toyota then dropped expected production of the Highlander to 120,000 annually. Now, it appears Toyota prefers to ramp up production of the fuel-efficient Prius at the Mississippi plant instead.
Lower production numbers of the Highlander have allowed Toyota to move production of the mid-size SUV to their plant in Princeton, Indiana. The Mississippi-born Prius is predicted to start rolling off the line in late 2010. Once this happens, the Prius will become the second Toyota hybrid vehicle to be manufactured in the United States. The Toyota Camry Hybrid is currently assembled in Georgetown, Kentucky.
The 2010 Toyota Prius is expected to include a redesigned body and more powerful gas engine. The extra room provided by the plant may also allow for production of additional Prius models. A plug-in electric vehicle is an expected addition to the Prius lineup in 2010. Toyota has also voiced interest in extending the Prius brand to encompass numerous other vehicle models -- a la the current Scion line. If this is true, the Mississippi plant may also manufacture a Prius coupe and Prius wagon -- both of which are rumored to be in the works.