Toyota Motor Corp. will add 400 jobs at its Indiana plant to produce the hybrid version of its Highlander sport-utility vehicle, shifting production of the SUV from Japan to the United States.
Toyota North American President Yoshi Inaba announced the move during a speech at the Chicago Auto Show on Wednesday, adding that the company will spend $400 million on the plant in Princeton, Ind. Production will be shifted by late 2013.
We plan to export some of those Highlanders to other countries, Inaba said, according to The Wall Street Journal. Our exports of made-in-America products to 21 countries has topped 100,000 vehicles and we've just begun exporting American Camry sedans and Sienna minivans to South Korea.
He said the factory will be able to build 50,000 additional Highlander vehicles per year. The Indiana plant will export to Russia and Australia.
Toyota has expressed a desire to shift more production to the U.S. and export vehicles produced there to other countries while the yen appreciates value against the U.S. dollar. The strengthening yen has cut into Toyota's profits with high export volumes to the U.S.
In Indiana, Toyota currently employs 4,800 people that produce the Highlander, Sequoia full-size SUV and Sienna minivan.
This project allows for better utilization of the Indiana plant and will help Toyota capitalize on the improving North American and global auto market, said Steve St. Angelo, executive vice president of Toyota Motor Engineering & Manufacturing North America, Inc. In addition to new jobs at the Indiana plant, this project will increase opportunities and jobs for our North American supply base.
On Tuesday, Toyota raised its full-year profit forecast by more than a third, as it has cut costs and spending and newer vehicles have helped sales rise.
Toyota has also forecast record sales in 2012 -- 9.58 million -- in a year in which it hopes to recover from dismal 2011. Last year, a Japanese earthquake and tsunami hit northeastern Japan and cut off some of the supply chain of Toyota and Japanese competitor Honda Motor Co. Later in 2011, flooding in Thailand also affected supply.
And on Monday, Toyota announced a second shift for its Blue Springs, Miss., plant, where it produces the Camry.