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Toyota to expand Highlander production in Indiana, invest $100 million

Sales of the U.S.-built Highlander, pictured here on the line in Princeton, are up 18 percent for the first seven months of this year to 81,374.

Toyota Motor Corp. said today it will spend $100 million to increase production of the Highlander crossover in Princeton, Ind.

The Highlander has been bumping against its production ceiling at the Indiana assembly plant.

The investment, which will also require Toyota to add 300 workers to Princeton’s existing workforce of about 4,500, will give Toyota 30,000 more Highlanders annually.

Sales of the U.S.-built Highlander are up 18 percent for the first seven months of this year to 81,374. That excludes a small and declining volume of Highlanders (2,121 units this year) that are still being imported from Japan.

The U.S. production boost will not increase the overall production capacity of the Indiana assembly plant, which is 365,000 vehicles a year. Instead, the project will expand Highlander to both of the plant’s two assembly lines.

Currently, Highlanders and Sequoia SUVs are assembled on one assembly line, and the Sienna minivan is built on a second line.

“Expanding the Highlander to both lines will give us more flexibility in producing it, and also more capacity for it,” Toyota spokesman Mike Goss said today. “Highlander demand is strong and we need it.”

Princeton was originally Toyota’s key truck plant, producing SUVs, minivans and the full-size Tundra pickup.

After the crash in truck and SUV sales in 2008, Toyota reorganized its truck production, and consolidated all Tundra output at its plant in San Antonio.

Toyota has been reassigning Princeton’s large capacity since then. The automaker has separately added about 200 workers so far this year.

You can reach Lindsay Chappell at lchappell@autonews.com

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