SAN ANTONIO -- A decision by Toyota Motor Corp. last week to build a highly sought-after truck plant in Texas began with a trip to a Dallas Cowboys football game, Toyota President Fujio Cho said Monday.
Cho, who was in town to announce that Toyota would put its plant in San Antonio, said his executives were impressed not so much by the game, but by what they saw in the parking lot.
"On the way to the game, our American engineers took the Japanese executives through an extended tour of the Texas Stadium parking lot," Cho told a cheering crowd led by a host of local and state officials.
"Spread before them were thousands upon thousands of full-sized pickup trucks, row after shining row. Our planners realized then that American pickups were not solely commercial vehicles but widely used by everyone for regular transportation," he said.
"The result was the Toyota Tundra," Cho said, referring to the full-sized Toyota truck that will be the main product of the San Antonio plant.
Toyota directors voted last week to put their $800 million plant in San Antonio, the nation's 10th largest city, ending an intense competition among at least eight states to land the factory.
Texas anted up about $130 million in economic incentives for the carmaker, officials said.
The plant, set to open in 2006, will employ 2,000 people and build 150,000 Tundras a year at what Cho promised would be "the most environmentally advanced plant that Toyota has ever created."
Cho said San Antonio's proximity to Mexico -- it is about 150 miles from the U.S.-Mexico border -- was a major factor in Toyota's decision.
"San Antonio is the city of the future," he said. "Located in an important corridor for North American trade, it will undoubtedly serve as a vital link tomorrow for businesses all around the world."
Toyota Executive Vice President of Sales Jim Press said it also helped that 25 percent of the world full-sized truck market is in Texas.
"It's a big truck and it's a big state," Press said, adding that Toyota's goal is to increase its U.S. market share of the V-8 truck market from 4.5 percent to 10 percent.
"Obviously, as we grow and develop, a key to continue growing is to have a 10 percent share in the full-sized truck market," Press said.