Editor's note: Earlier versions of this story misstated some of the figures quantifying the plant's capacity increases.
TOKYO -- As Toyota Motor Corp. ponders its first full assembly plant in Mexico, it plans to boost capacity at its existing factory there more than 40 percent to feed demand for trucks.
Toyota will increase capacity at its Tacoma pickup plant in Baja California 41 percent to 89,000 vehicles next April.
The upgrade, which will add 300 jobs, follows an 11 percent capacity increase just this year that raised output to 63,000.
The world’s biggest automaker will eke the additional vehicles by adding a third shift to the plant, which is a knock-down facility handling only body welding, painting and assembly.
Production at the plant was up 13 percent from January to July. Spokesman Dion Corbett said next year’s capacity increase aims to meet what is expected to be increasing truck demand.
U.S. Tacoma sales actually slid 7 percent to 102,736 vehicles in the first eight months of the year. But shifting some Tacoma production to Mexico from Toyota’s truck plant in Texas could open capacity north of the border for rising Tundra output.
Tundra sales climbed 10 percent through August to 80,133 units.
The move comes as Toyota weighs sites in Mexico for its first full assembly plant, one that might handle passenger cars. The company has been evaluating a new plant for at least two years.
But President Akio Toyoda implemented a three-year freeze on new plants through 2016, while ordering his manufacturing gurus to squeeze extra capacity from existing factories. The project may remain on hold. Toyoda has told executives to "re-review" the Mexico project plans, Reuters reported this week.
The long-in-the-tooth Tacoma is expected to get a redesign for the 2016 model year. Spy photos indicate the next Tacoma it will grow slightly to keep pace with the midsize GM pickups.
General Motors said Tuesday it will add a third production shift at its Wentzville, Mo., assembly plant, where its new midsize pickups and commercial vans are made.
GM started production of the redesigned 2015 Chevrolet Colorado and GMC Canyon, after a two-year hiatus for the trucks.
Starting in 2016, Toyota will get its first supply of Mexico-built passenger cars. It will be a small car based on the Mazda2 and built at Mazda Motor Corp.’s new plant in Salamanca.
That factory will allocate about 50,000 vehicles for Toyota from its full capacity of 230,000 units. Output for Toyota is expected to begin in the fiscal year ending March 31, 2016.
That operation may serve as an additional litmus test for possible future cooperation between Mazda and Toyota. And it may also serve as an observation post from which Toyota can assess the payoffs and pitfalls of running a full plant in Mexico.
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