Toyota eyeing Ontario for new model production

Toyota eyeing Ontario for new model production
News of the possible new production came on the same day the Japanese automaker announced that it is investing an additional $750 million (U.S.) at five U.S. plants, including the production of two hybrid vehicles for the first time at its Kentucky facility.

A spokesperson for Toyota Motor Manufacturing Canada said while the U.S. investment does not change plans for its facilities north of the border, the company is “considering production of a new model in Canada.”

Toyota Canada corporate communications manager Michael Bouliane said the company will make an announcement “once we have made a decision.”

Toyota’s moves follow GM’s recent annoucement that it was idling its Oshawa plant and four U.S. facilities amid declining demand for compact sedans.

Toyota Canada last May said it would upgrade two Ontario assembly plants in order to build the next generation of the RAV4 crossover vehicles.

“Toyota’s recent $1.4-billion investment in Toyota Motor Manufacturing Canada, including supporting funds from the provincial and federal governments, is helping us meet…growth in demand, and our plan has not changed,” Bouliane wrote in an email.

“(We) will continue to be the largest producer of RAV4 vehicles for North American markets.”

He added that Toyota Canada is using full capacity to produce the RAV4 gasoline and hybrid models in Canada, calling the RAV4 the bestselling non-pick-up truck in North America.

The $1.4-billion investment announced in 2018 retained 8,000 jobs that would have been lost when production of the Corolla was moved to Alabama. Toyota originally said its plan was to make Corollas at a plant in Mexico, but chose Alabama instead after reassessing the market.

Toyota later announced that it would replace Corolla production in Cambridge with expanded production of the RAV4 sport utility vehicle, which also is assembled in the company’s plant in Woodstock.

U.S. President Donald Trump had criticized Toyota and other automakers for taking auto production and jobs to Mexico, saying vehicles for the U.S. market should be built by U.S. workers. Toyota denied that Trump’s views influenced the decision to build Corollas in Alabama.

Trump, however, welcomed the announcement in a tweet: “Toyota & Mazda to build a new $1.6B plant here in the U.S.A. and create 4K new American jobs. A great investment in American manufacturing!”

The U.S. investment, meanwhile, marks yet another expansion of the Japanese automaker’s U.S. presence, bringing to nearly $13 billion the amount it will spend by 2021.

The latest investments are at facilities in Alabama, Kentucky, Missouri, Tennessee and West Virginia. Those same facilities were part of a 2017 announcement by Toyota for a $374-million investment to support production of its first American-made hybrid powertrain.

Toyota Motor North America CEO Jim Lentz said the latest investments “represent even more examples of our long-term commitment to build where we sell. By boosting our U.S. manufacturing footprint, we can better serve our customers and dealers and position our manufacturing plants for future success with more domestic capacity.”

Toyota’s Georgetown, Kentucky, facility will get a $238 million infusion to produce hybrid versions of Lexus ES 300 sedans starting in May and the RAV4 SUV starting in January 2020, the company announced.

It also includes $288 million to increase annual engine capacity at Toyota’s Huntsville, Alabama, facility. The plant will add 450 jobs to accommodate new four-cylinder and V6 engine production lines. Last year Toyota and Mazda announced plans to build a $1.6 billion joint-venture plant in Huntsville that will eventually employ about 4,000 people.

Toyota also is spending $62 million on equipment to boost production of Toyota and Lexus cylinder heads at its Bodine Aluminum facility in Troy, Missouri, as part of its cost-saving New Global Architecture production strategy to share common parts and components among different vehicles.

A $50 million expansion and equipment upgrade at a Bodine plant in Jackson, Tennessee, will add 13 jobs and produce engine blocks while doubling the capacity of hybrid transaxle cases and housings.

And Toyota will add 123 jobs and spent $111 million to expand its plant and purchase equipment in Buffalo, West Virginia, to double the capacity of hybrid transaxles.

Previously, Toyota also announced a $600 million investment at its Princeton, Indiana, plant to increase the capacity of its Highlander SUV and to incorporate the new production strategy, and $170 million to launch the 2020 Corolla on a new production line in Blue Springs, Mississippi.
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