There’s no idling of plants at the Big T. With news of electrified versions of the RAV4 Hybrid and Lexus ES heading to Kentucky for the first time, Toyota is set to invest a further $749 million into its American operations, adding hundreds of jobs across five states.
This builds on a commitment made by the company a couple of years ago, one in which it pledged to invest about $10 billion (with a “b”) by 2021. Those of you with sharp memories will recall that’s the year a new manufacturing facility is scheduled to open, one which marks the start of a joint venture with Mazda and the creation of 4,000 jobs in the great state of Alabama.
As for today’s announcement, the company’s Alabama operations grabs the lion’s share of that money, as well. Toyota’s investment of $288 million will increase annual engine capacity from 670,000 to 900,000 by the end of 2021, increasing product flexibility and accommodating market demand. New four-banger and V6 engine lines will add 450 new jobs at its Huntsville facility, allegedly the largest hiring need in the plant’s history. The investment also includes a building expansion.
Folks in Kentucky will be the beneficiaries of $238 million in new funding, more than enough to purchase several buckets of extra tasty crispy entrees prepared by a man wearing a white seersucker mainsail. Toyota’s Kentucky vehicle plant, the company’s largest globally, will begin production of the Lexus ES 300h hybrid in May 2019 with annual capacity of 12,000 units, while RAV4 Hybrid production starts in January 2020 with an annual capacity of 100,000 units. TMMK’s factory workers also build Camry, Camry Hybrid, Avalon, Avalon Hybrid, and Lexus ES models, with an annual capacity of 550,000 vehicles.
This gives us some insight into the type of volume Toyota expects to see out of its new RAV hybrid. Last year in America, the company found homes for 427,168 new units. The bullish capacity means the company either truly expecting one in four RAV customers to choose electrification, or bets are being hedged for future variants.
Missouri, Tennessee, and West Virginia (COUNTRY ROAAADS! *ahem, excuse me*) also get a slice of this new money pie to the tunes of $62, $50, and $111 million bucks, respectively. Toyota’s cylinder head plant in the Show Me state will now be able to crank out an extra 864,000 of the things for cars on the company’s TNGA platform, while factories in the Volunteer and Mountain states (why do these ridiculous nicknames exist?) can now make scads more transaxle pieces for hybrids. Presumably, this has something to do with those bullish numbers listed above.
Currently, Toyota says it employs more than 37,000 people, operates 10 manufacturing plants, and houses about 1,500 dealers in this country.