DETROIT -- Toyota Motor Corp. plans to add capacity in North America -- most likely for production of SUVs.
The company says it will move quickly. The fast climb in its U.S. sales is pushing Toyota to add capacity sooner than expected, said Yoshimi Inaba, senior managing director in charge of the Americas operations group.
Toyota shot past 2 million sales in the United States last year -- six years ahead of the schedule it says it set for itself in 1999.
Among the models Toyota is considering building here are the Highlander, 4Runner and RAV4, said Inaba. The three SUVs are now built only in Japan.
Inaba said Toyota prefers to add capacity in the United States rather than in Canada or Mexico.
"The safe bet is the U.S.," he said last week at the Detroit auto show. "We have too limited experience in Mexico, and while it is cheaper to produce in Canada, there are additional logistical costs there."
Inaba did not specify whether Toyota plans to build a plant or add assembly lines at existing plants -- or if it expects to add more than one new assembly location. But he said new engine and transmission plants would be part of any plan.
The best solution would be to build vehicles that share similar underpinnings on the same assembly line, Inaba said.
Toyota last year sold 133,077 Camry-based Highlanders and 114,212 Tacoma-based 4Runners in the United States. It also sold 70,314 Corolla-derived RAV4s, though Inaba said the company can do better than that in the small SUV segment.
"The Honda CR-V does more than 100,000 units, so we should too," he said.