N.A. production will slash Toyota imports
Goal is total local output of volume models
Terashi: No more "bridge manufacturing"
LOS ANGELES -- Several of Toyota's top-selling U.S. vehicles that are built both in North America and Japan soon will be produced exclusively in North America, the company's top U.S. executive said.
Building Camrys, Corollas and other volume products in factories around the world has given Toyota the flexibility to allocate vehicles to regional markets. Most vehicles are manufactured where they are sold, while plants in Japan can export extra units if needed. Toyota calls it "bridge manufacturing."
But within a couple of years, any vehicle sold in large volumes in the United States will be assembled solely in North America, Shigeki Terashi, president of Toyota Motor North America, said in an interview.
That includes the Toyota Camry, Corolla, Highlander and RAV4 and the Lexus RX 350.
Vehicles aimed specifically at North America, such as the Toyota Tundra, Venza and Sienna, already are built solely in local plants.
"All the models that have been manufactured under the bridge manufacturing plan are in a trend so that they will all now be manufactured in the U.S.," Terashi said. "We are now even thinking of exporting those models manufactured in the U.S."
The strong yen plays a part in the decision. It makes a Japan-built Camry sold in the United States less profitable than one built here. But Toyota will continue to build low-volume vehicles in Japan and pursue North American production of vehicles on which it can achieve economies of scale.
Last year, among Toyota and Lexus vehicles sold here that are built in both North America and Japan, about 13 percent were made in Japan.
There is no deadline to end bridge manufacturing. It depends on the model line.
The Camry sold here already is being produced exclusively in North America. In April, just 11 Japan-built Camrys were sold in the United States. But other vehicles will have a longer adjustment period. In 2011, 64,264 Corollas -- about 27 percent of the car's total U.S. sales volume -- were Japan-made.
Toyota's recently opened plant in Tupelo, Miss., will add 150,000 units to the Corollas already built in Cambridge, Ontario.
As for the Highlander, Toyota will add 400 jobs to its Princeton, Ind., plant by late 2013 to increase production by an amount it has not announced.
RAV4 production in Woodstock, Ontario, is scheduled to increase from 150,000 units to 200,000 units by early 2013.
"We believe we can increase the capacity in the Indiana plant to manufacture more Highlanders," Terashi said. "The same is true with RAV4."
The biggest move could involve future production of the Lexus RX 350.
Lexus factories in Tahara and Kyushu in Japan build most of the Lexus lineup. But the Cambridge plant that has assembled most of the U.S.-destined RX 350s since 2003 repeatedly has won awards from J.D. Power and Associates for its build quality.
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