In the latest move by a major automaker to enhance its US manufacturing operations, Toyota Motor Corp on Monday said that it would invest more than US$1.3 billion to upgrade its assembly plant in Kentucky.
The announcement follows a push by US President Donald Trump for auto companies to expand in the US, and it follows similar actions by General Motors Co, Ford Motor Co and Fiat Chrysler Automobile NV.
The investment will not add jobs at Toyota’s plant in Georgetown, Kentucky, but company spokesman Scott Vazin said the investment “solidifies its commitment” to manufacturing vehicles in the US.
Asked if Trump’s policies played a role in the decision, Vazin said: “No, but we do share his goal of growing the economy and jobs in the US.”
The Georgetown plant is Toyota’s largest in the world, and it employs 8,200 people. Last year, it added 700 employees.
Toyota said the new investment would cut the time needed to develop new models and would improve manufacturing flexibility so that the company can quickly respond to changes in demand.
The company also released a statement from Trump endorsing the move.
“Toyota’s decision to invest [US]$1.3 billion in their Kentucky plant is further evidence that manufacturers are now confident that the economic climate has greatly improved under my administration,” Trump said.
Trump has taken a keen interest in the auto industry, both during the presidential campaign and in the first months of his administration.
While he has criticized auto companies, including Toyota, for investing in Mexican factories that supply vehicles to the US, he has also pledged to cut regulations to encourage the expansion of US manufacturing facilities.
The president recently ordered the US federal government to reopen a review of fuel-economy rules for new vehicles.
Automakers had requested the move after the Obama administration finalized standards that called for companies to achieve an average corporate fuel economy of 54.5 miles per gallon (23.17 kilometers per liter) by 2025.
Toyota said its investment in Kentucky would be spread over three years and would introduce a new product development and manufacturing process that shortens vehicle development cycles.
“This [US]$1.33 billion investment is part of Toyota’s plan to invest [US]$10 billion in the US over the next five years, on top of the nearly [US]$22 billion Toyota has invested in the US over the past 60 years,” Toyota Motor North America chief executive James Lentz said.
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