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Toyota Motor Manufacturing Plant of Kentucky

First Toyota Car Photo, Georgetown, Kentucky

Kentucky is well known for its horses from the world famous Kentucky Derby to the Lexington Horse Park. The state is instrumental in producing horsepower, but not the type you may be thinking about. Toyota has built one of the biggest automobile plants in North America located in Georgetown, a few miles from Lexington. The plant which is known as Toyota Motor Manufacturing of Kentucky (TMMK) produces the Camry, Avalon, and Solara. While it is the area’s largest employer, it is also the area’s biggest contributor, pumping millions of dollars back into the community to improve schools, infrastructure, and other noteworthy civic projects. The plant encourages visitors to take a tour and see firsthand the engineering marvel that takes a coil of steel and transforms it into an automobile.

The tour begins at the visitor center where you check in with the receptionist. Reservations are required and tours are conducted Monday thru Friday at 10am, noon, and 2pm with a 6pm tour on Thursday. As you wait for the tour to begin, you can browse the exhibits that chronicle the creation of Toyota from its humble beginnings to its rise as the largest automaker in the world. On display is a 1988 Toyota Camry, the first vehicle produced at TMMK, but it is not street legal as it was built without a VIN plate. The tour guide motions us into the next room where we receive headphones and safety glasses. After a short fifteen minute video presentation, it is now time to board the tram with our safety glasses on and headphones attached. The headphones are used primarily to hear the tour guide explain the different departments as well as drown out the noise.

The first stop is the unloading docks where trucks haul huge steel coils that are then molded into different body components. The components are then welded to the chassis giving the vehicle a “shell.” The vehicles are carried on an assembly line to different areas in the plant where the magic begins. The workers are divided into teams who are responsible for a particular section of the vehicle. There are those who install the steering wheel, the dash, seats, as well as someone who sticks the Toyota emblem on the hood and trunk lid. Toyota believes in quality as well as efficiency, which is why all employees are cross-trained as every two hours they switch jobs to break up the monotony. Don’t be surprised to see employees playing video games or billiards. Employees can spend their breaks in recreation areas throughout the plant before going back to work.

The tour takes you to every area of the plant except for painting, for obvious reasons. This is also where the vehicle spends most of its time on the production line. It takes only twenty hours to build a vehicle and eleven of those are spent in the paint shop. We approach final inspection where the vehicles are given the white glove treatment, literally. These employees donned with their white gloves inspect every nook and cranny as well as trained to detect a trunk or car door that does not close properly. A new vehicle rolls off the assembly line every 55 seconds where it is taken to the test track. A two-mile track allows the vehicle to show off its acceleration and braking, before being loaded onto trains and shipped around the country. The tour ends back at the visitor center where the safety goggles are yours to keep as a souvenir.

This tour is excellent for the auto enthusiast or anyone who enjoys watching an engineering marvel. After having visited the Ford Rouge plant in Detroit, Michigan, the tour of Toyota plant far surpasses the latter for a number of reasons. At the TMMK, there is no walking, thereby making this tour ideal for children or handicapped persons. Most importantly, the tour is FREE unlike most other attractions. Since 1988, Toyota has continually built more production facilities across the United States and has demonstrated to the rest of the world that Toyota is truly Moving Forward.

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