Toyota operates 13 vehicle, engine and parts assembly and manufacturing plants in North America. More than 1.5 million vehicles spit out the doors of Toyota's North American factories every year, a figure that will increase to 2.2 million by 2010.
It all started because of chickens.
Granted, that's a simplistic explanation for Toyota's manufacturing might in North America. But the truth is that it traces back to the "chicken tax" proclamation signed by President Lyndon Johnson in December 1963. The tax was aimed at Volkswagen, at the time the only automaker importing pickups into the United States. The tax, a 25 percent tariff on imported pickups, was a response to the tripling of taxes in Europe on chickens exported by U.S. farmers.
Richard Gallio, 64, who retired in 2001 after 30 years at Toyota, joined the company in the early 1970s, just as it was about to bring its compact Hilux pickup to the United States. To avoid the chicken tax, it needed to source part of those trucks on this side of the Pacific. That decision would mark Toyota's entry into manufacturing vehicles in North America.
The solution was to import the cabs and their powertrains but to produce the truck beds domestically, with installation taking place at the ports where the trucks entered the country.