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Monday, February 15th, 2010

It used to be that you had to be a special friend of Toyota — or an area student on a field trip — to score a tour of the Toyota’s Gibson County manufacturing plant in Indiana…That changes Tuesday!tundra explosion picture

On Tuesday, Toyota opens its new Visitors Center and begins offering public tours on a regular schedule. Previously, tours were offered only to school groups or those with ties to the company.

Toyota says the move will help the public better understand the company, area commerce and tourism. Officials say it will strengthen the Tri-State’s list of attractions.

“We’re very eager to show off this facility,” says a senior vice president at Toyota Motor Manufacturing Indiana. “I think it’ll help people understand the complexity of auto manufacturing.”

The Free Tours begin in Toyota’s Visitors Center. Through text, photos, artifacts, sound and hands-on activities, the center presents the history of the Princeton-area business community, Toyota’s development as a company and explains the manufacturing process. Visitors can try on the protective gear worn by production employees, and they can see a demonstration of the process through which Toyota makes plastic bumpers and dashboards.

A Major Feature Highlight at the Visitors Center is a 2008 Toyota Tundra pickup suspended from the ceiling. WOW!!!…Just look at the picture of it. Various components of the vehicle are pulled apart to reveal how parts fit together. Also in the Visitors Center is a second-floor meeting space that Toyota will offer free of charge to civic and nonprofit organizations.

After visitors watch a short movie, they board a tram for a 20-minute plant tour.

On the tour, visitors watch Toyota employees (and robots) weld, stamp and assemble the parts that create the plant’s Siennas, Highlanders and Sequoias.

At a preview event last week for invited guests, tourism and commerce officials said the tours have been long anticipated.

The Gibson County Chamber of Commerce, said their office regularly receives queries from people asking about Toyota tours. “Everyone is very curious about auto assembly plants. They’re really fascinating,” a spoksman said.

Toyota’s Princeton plant began operations in 1998 — so why wait until now to offer public tours?

The company first wanted to establish itself in the area. “It was something we knew we had to take a little time to grow into,” an official said.

Groups of 16 or more people must make a reservation to take a plant tour. To make a group reservation, please call us at (812) 387-2266 or (888) 696-8211 (88TOYOTA11).

Groups with fewer than 16 people are welcome to join a plant tour if space permits; however, reservations are recommended. To make a reservation, please go to Reservations.

You do not need a reservation for the Visitors Center.