It’s been a long time since a Tundra rolled off the line at the Toyota Motor Manufacturing, Indiana (TMMI) plant. In 2008, production moved to Toyota Motor Manufacturing, Texas (TMMTX).
Even though TMMI is now home to the Highlander, Sienna, and Sequoia – plenty of team members still have fond memories of assembling Toyota’s first full-size pickup.
Chris Mroz, maintenance/engineering/integration manager, and Steve Welp, group manager of paint and plastics, were both part of the original crew that began assembling Tundra in 1999. We talked to them about the beginnings, the teamwork and their impressions of Tundra’s evolution 20 years later.
Driver’s Seat: What is most memorable about the early days of assembling Tundra?
Mroz: The excitement – new plant, new people and Toyota’s first introduction into the full-size truck market. It was great to be a part of that.
Welp: I started in plastics and remember walking into the plastics shop. The shop equipment was under construction and I remember thinking there is a bunch that needs to happen before we can start making good product.
Quick action was a focus. We had trials each day, would list up the problems, and team members would work on the various issues. The emphasis was to try to fix the issue for the next trial run so we could find the next problem. The gaps to target for KPIs such as mold change time operational availability seems so big I was wondering if we could achieve the targets. With everyone doing their part to resolve the individual problems we achieved the KPI targets.
Driver’s Seat: How did it feel to be part of the team tasked with assembling Tundra?
Tundra, First of its Name – Steve Welp was part of the team that assembled the original Tundra at Toyota Motor Manufacturing, Indiana. The first Tundra to roll off the line is still displayed in the plant's lobby.
Mroz: TMMI was brand new and thousands were applying for the jobs. It was an honor to be selected to work for Toyota and to build the Tundra. My dad was so proud of me. He always said Toyota is the best at what they do and how they do it.
Welp: The teamwork was great. People were excited about their new jobs and hopeful about the future. Everyone worked hard to make sure the launch was a success.
Driver’s Seat: What was it like when the Tundra moved to TMMTX?
Mroz: I was a little sad to see it go. I love trucks and being on the ground floor for the first Tundra had given me a sense of ownership for building the best truck on the market. I also knew the people building it and they too had great pride in building the Tundra. I was fortunate to be able to work with TMMTX during the second-generation Tundra development and launch. I quickly realized the team members in Texas had the same drive and passion to continue building the best full-size truck in the market that Indiana had.
Welp: It was sad to see the Tundra move to Texas. It was TMMI’s baby. However, with the announcement of the Highlander there was an excitement of learning how to build a new product.
Driver’s Seat: 20 years later, what do you think of how Tundra has evolved?
Worn with Pride – TMMI team member Chris Welp, who helped assemble the first-generation Tundra, still has the jacket he received to commemorate the first truck that rolled off the line.
Mroz: Tundra continues to bring the safety, quality and performance our customers expect and quite honestly demand. I own a Tundra and won’t consider any other truck.
Welp: It is amazing how much the Tundra has grown in size and style.
Driver’s Seat: Is there anything you want your fellow team members to know about what it takes to build a truck like Tundra?
Mroz: Building a Tundra requires the same DNA of that of team members at other Toyota plants – dedication to safety and quality, hard work ethic and pride in your craftsmanship.
Welp: First of all, being a part of the TMMI and Tundra startup team was a great experience. I feel honored and proud. It takes everyone doing their job well to bring together a high-quality product like the Tundra.
By Kristen Orsborn