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Published On: Sun, Aug 17th, 2014

NAHJ Storytellers Get An Inside Peek Of Toyota’s San Antonio Texas Plant.

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San Antonio is indeed the home of the Tundra and Tacoma.

IMG_2323Our #ViajaConBW team made it to San Antonio all the way from Dallas after touring the Best Western properties to the National Association of Hispanic Journalists (NAHJ) as they celebrate their 30th Anniversary in three very cool vehicles –>  The Prius, The Corolla and The Camry Hybrid (my personal favorite).

Helping take this milestone year to new heights was Toyota Latino, a consistent partner of many game changing Latino Initiatives (NCLR, Hispanicize) step to center stage as title sponsor of this year’s NAHJ conference. This is especially appropriate given that San Antonio is the home of the only manufacturing plant that makes both the Tundra and Tacoma, two trucks that have a major presence on Texas roads.

During our time at NAHJ, we participated in a few Toyota sponsored events but nothing as exciting (or exclusive) as touring the plant that is the birthplace to a new Tundra every 61 seconds. I have to say that this had to be one of the coolest moments of my San Antonio trip as this was more than just seeing an assembly line, it was an in depth look at the company culture of Toyota and how it integrates into the community it serves.

We are extremely proud of our engagement with the local San Antonio community and we were pleased to share this local involvement with the journalists attending NAHJ,” said Patricia Salas Pineda, group vice president of Hispanic Business Strategy Group, Toyota Motor North America. “Toyota is honored to be the number one auto brand for U.S. Latinos since 2004 and this was a perfect opportunity to showcase our San Antonio plant with Hispanic journalists from across the country.”

We started off with a tour of the actual assembly line, I do apologize but I was not able to take any selfies as our phones and cameras were sequestered mostly for safety reasons. The folks at Toyota were kind enough to take some picture of our tour for us so we would be able to let you get a sneak peek.

The assembly line tour really highlighted a culture of safety that is reinforced in many ways starting from when you walk in the threshold of the plant. You can see that working conditions are very ergonomic and there is a lot of focus on physical conditioning. You can see that there is a lot of Japanese influence in the management of the plant, their daily stretch meetings and they even have a big robot called Godzilla that carries the trucks from one level to the next on the assembly line with incredible precision.

After our tour, we were taken to the visitor center where we learned a bit more about Toyota’s investment in the community by partnering and mentoring local businesses. We met Frank Herrera Jr, CEO of Hero Logistics and one of the 4 Compadres, a business collective of local latino suppliers of official Toyota parts that reside at the San Antonio plant.

Toyota Motor Manufacturing Texas represents a $2.2 billion investment and assembles Tundra and Tacoma pickup trucks.  The plant has an annual capacity to produce 200,000 trucks and directly employs 2,900 workers.  Seven of its 21 on-site suppliers are minority joint ventures – six of which are locally owned – and combined with the plant, total employment is nearly 6,000. During the Q&A I could not help but asking about the diversity in the workforce… it turns out the Hispanics make up between 65-70% of the workforce which we were told reflects the demographic of a ten mile radius of the plant. (APLAUSO!)

After our chat with Frank Herrera Jr.  We got a chance to meet local students that are part of different programs that Toyota supports to encourage STEM education and robotics technology. The kids were very excited to share some of the really cool projects they had created in different competitions. We were joined by NASCAR Truck Series Driver (and now an old friend) German Quiroga Jr. who got an opportunity to take pictures with the kids just before we headed out to our final leg of the Toyota Tour.

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“Our interest is to create processes and awareness of STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) education as it applies to workforce development and advanced manufacturing,” said Mario Lozoya, director of government relations & external affairs, TMMTX.  “We do this by investing in FIRST Robotics teams from elementary to high schools, by helping to increase local schools in their electric and solar programs, and providing internships for students attending Alamo Academies.”

In order for us to really experience the power of the Tundra, we were treated to a test track drive of the Tacoma with German at the wheel. During our track run he was able to showcase the handling of the Tundra under simulated hills, terrains and last but not least, he gave us a taste of what it might be to ride shotgun in a NASCAR race. I found out after that we were actually riding in a new 2015 Limited Edition Tacoma which has not even hit the assembly line yet.

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I have been exposed to the Toyota brand my whole life, My dad drove a Celica, my first car was a 1970 something 1.8, I have owned both a Camry and most recently a Toyota Corolla that we had for over 10 years. My Corolla was totaled in 2013, when a cab driver fell asleep at the wheel and smashed into my car right in front of my house moments before I was to leave for work. I currently have a Lexus 350 on my vision board after my last road trip from Orlando to Miami for Hispanicize 2014.

I want to sincerely thank The Toyota Latino team; Patricia Salas Pineda, Luis Rosero, Sunoko & Walter for being such great hosts and storytellers, it is because of them I am able to share these great brand stories. I am looking forward to another year of being a outspoken Toyota Ambassador.

Enjoy some additional pictures of our tour!

George Torres
The Urban Jibaro

Sofrito Media Group

Cultivating Latino Culture Since 1997

 

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NAHJ Storytellers Get An Inside Peek Of Toyota’s San Antonio Texas Plant.