A new push into exports is putting some muscle on a once-frail Japanese transplant.
Subaru-Isuzu Automotive Inc. has asked Indiana for environmental approval to expand plant capacity to 260,000 cars and light trucks a year.
The plant is not ready to build that many yet, but robust U.S. sales and burgeoning exports have put the current capacity ceiling in sight.
When the joint venture launched nine years ago, it hoped to eventually build 240,000 Subaru cars and Isuzu trucks a year. It never got close.
Last year, the venture produced 186,892 vehicles. The plant is on track to build 227,000 this year.
The product lineup features the new Isuzu Amigo plus the Isuzu Rodeo, Honda Passport, and variations of the Subaru Legacy.
In 1994, the plant began building Legacys with right-hand drive for the U.S. Post Office. That effort has matured into a large right-hand-drive export operation.
Last week in Lafayette, Ind., officials said the plant will begin shipping to Japan right-hand-drive versions of the Rodeo, called the Wizard, and the Amigo, called the Mu. This year, the plant expects to export between 13,000 and 18,000 Isuzus.
'We've been having some great success,' says Tom Easterday, vice president of corporate affairs. 'The export activity is a nice addition. In the event of a downturn in the future, it allows you to continue to compete in the world.'