Toyota Motor North America on Thursday said it plans to invest $749 million and add about 600 jobs at plants in five states as part of a U.S. manufacturing expansion that now is expected to total $13 billion by 2022.
The automaker plans to increase engine capacity in Alabama, add production of the RAV4 hybrid and Lexus ES 300h hybrid in Kentucky, and double hybrid transaxle capacity in West Virginia. It also plans to raise output of castings at plants operated by its Bodine Aluminum subsidiary in Tennessee and Missouri.
“In a time when others are scaling back, we believe in the strength of America and we’re excited about the future of mobility in America,” Jim Lentz, CEO of Toyota Motor North America, said on a call with reporters.
In an earlier statement, he said: "By boosting our U.S. manufacturing footprint, we can better serve our customers and dealers and position our manufacturing plants for future success with more domestic capacity."
Toyota said it would spend $288 million to expand and add 450 jobs at the engine plant in Huntsville, Ala., $111 million to expand and add 123 jobs in Buffalo, W.V., and $50 million to expand and add 13 jobs at the Bodine plant in Jackson, Tenn. Investments of $238 million in Georgetown, Ky., and $62 million in Troy, Mo., do not include plans to add jobs.
The Georgetown plant will have capacity to build 12,000 ES 300h hybrids annually starting in May and 100,000 RAV4 hybrids annually starting in January 2020.
In 2017, Toyota said it would invest $10 billion in U.S. manufacturing within five years. The company says it now plans to increase that commitment by 30 percent.
Lentz said Toyota has spent about half of its original $10 billion commitment already and isn’t ready to disclose details about the remainder of the $3 billion it’s now adding.
He said adding the RAV4 hybrid benefits the Georgetown plant, which currently builds only cars, by giving it a crossover to build at a time when light trucks make up about 70 percent of the market.
“Adding an SUV to that plant was important,” Lentz said. But he said the company has no plans to convert Georgetown into a truck plant.
Lentz and Chris Reynolds, the company’s chief administrative officer for manufacturing and corporate resources, said U.S. trade policy isn’t the major factor prompting the expansions. But they said the company is eager to learn whether the Trump administration will indeed declare imported vehicles to be a national security threat and go forward with the tariffs it has threatened to impose.
“Our investment cycles go beyond any particular political cycle. We need to make decisions based on what we think the market needs rather than the policy direction of the moment,” Reynolds said. “All of this activity, I hope, shows that we’re a plus factor to the economic national security of the United States.”