Editor's note: An earlier version of this story misstated the time period in which Toyota sold 7,026 Highlanders.
TOKYO -- Toyota Motor Corp. plans to shift more production of its Highlander SUV to its Indiana assembly plant, as part of a drive to completely localize the manufacturing of the vehicle for North America and reduce its exposure to foreign exchange losses on imports.
Toyota began building the Highlander at Toyota Motor Manufacturing Indiana Inc. last fall but has continued importing units from a plant in Kyushu, Japan. Imports accounted for 1,165 units, or 17 percent, of the 7,026 Highlanders sold in the United States in April.
Toyota now plans to shift all Highlander production for North America to Indiana, spokesman Paul Nolasco said. The move does not affect hybrid Highlanders or Highlanders bound for Australia. Those will continue to be manufactured in Kyushu, he said.
“This is part of our continuing trend to build more product where we sell,” Nolasco said. By reducing imports and building more vehicles in the United States, the world's biggest automaker is able to lessen the blow it takes from rapidly fluctuating foreign exchange rates.
Nolasco could not say when the shift would be complete or give figures for volume.
Japan's Nikkan Kogyo business newspaper reported earlier in the day that Toyota's Kyushu plant would end production of Highlanders for the U.S. market in August. The shift will lift Indiana production of the Highlander to about 2,000 units a month, the report said.
U.S. sales of the Highlander were up 24 percent to 27,072 units in the first four months of 2010 compared with the same period of 2009.