Toyota’s new hires headed for plants

NAGOYA (Kyodo) In an unusual move, Toyota Motor Corp. plans to start using all of the 900 or so college graduates who joined the automaker this spring as factory workers in January to boost production of fuel-efficient vehicles, company officials said.

The new employees will be dispatched to Toyota’s auto factories in Aichi Prefecture to cover labor shortages, the officials said.

The last time new graduates were mobilized as factory workers was in February 1990, during the go-go days of the bubble economy.

College graduates usually start their careers at Toyota as white-collar workers or engineers. But Toyota opted to use them over temporary workers because it is not sure how long popular demand for its Prius hybrid and other fuel-efficient cars will continue.

“We are not in a situation in which we can drastically increase employees,” a senior Toyota official said.

Production at Toyota factories has been growing recently thanks to government subsidies, tax breaks and other economic stimulus-linked incentives that are being offered for purchases of fuel-efficient cars around the world.