Toyota said today it will increase annual production of the 6-speed automatic transmissions built at its Buffalo, W.Va., operations by 120,000 units to 520,000 units.
The $45 million investment will create 80 more jobs at the plant that builds transmissions for the Toyota Avalon, Camry, Sienna and Venza and the Lexus RX 350 -- all vehicles built in North America, the company said in a statement.
The transmission is also built in Japan and at AW North Carolina, a subsidiary of Aisin Seiko Co., a global drivetrain components supplier based in Japan. But a Toyota spokeswoman said today’s announcement is “an incremental volume increase” and would not shift production away from other plants.
Still, Toyota and other Japanese manufacturers have been moving more work to places outside Japan amid the strength of the yen and the increased cost of business that come with it.
“Toyota’s philosophy is to produce where we sell,” the spokeswoman said in an e-mail when asked whether the move was related to the yen’s value. “There is more demand for 6-speed automatic transmissions, and we are adding volume as a result.”
Last month, Reuters reported that Toyota was considering exporting cars from Europe to South Korea, saying only that it was “studying” the possibility of bringing in products from Europe.
Also in February, Toyota North America COO Yoshimi Inaba told the Economic Club of Chicago that Toyota will invest $400 million in its Princeton, Ind., plant to build a hybrid version of the Highlander crossover. The Highlander is already built there, but the hybrid Highlander is assembled in Japan. -- work that Yoshimi said will be transferred to Princeton by late 2013.
Toyota is also recovering from its 2011 North American production loss -- a 14 percent decline spurred by natural disasters overseas -- while its Detroit 3 competitors saw increased production last year. Honda Motor Co. was the only other automaker to see a significant decrease in North American production last year.
But the spokeswoman said Toyota’s announcement today is a result of increased demand. “Since last October, we’ve ramped up production as parts became available,” she said. “We will have inventory replenished by the end of March. We are adding this volume because we are seeing demand continuing to improve.”
Besides the investment in the West Virginia plant, Toyota will create 25 new jobs and invest more than $10 million in the Bodine Aluminum factory in Troy, Mo., which will provide various parts to Toyota’s transmission plant.