While GM debates the future of a Lordstown, Ohio auto plant, Asian automakers have invested billions in U.S. assembly plants. Most recently, in late 2018, Toyota and Mazda began construction on a new plant in Huntsville, Alabama. The $1.6 billion joint Mazda Toyota Manufacturing USA facility could eventually employ 4,000 workers and produce up to 300,000 vehicles annually. On top of that, Toyota recently added 450 new jobs at a separate Huntsville facility.
Now, a Toyota facility in Kentucky is receiving a major new investment.
Toyota is one of the world’s most valuable car brands. With a net worth estimated at over $30 billion, the Japanese car manufacturer has become associated with reliability and quality in the years since its inception in 1933. These characteristics have translated to consistent success, both in its foreign and domestic markets.
Even the U.S. enjoys the excellence of Toyota; in 2018, the crossover RAV4 was the fourth most sold in the nation with 427,168 units. 16,802 franchise dealers in the United States sold over 17.14 million new vehicles in 2017 alone, and a large percentage of those cars were Toyota. Due to this popularity, the car company has decided to invest a staggering $238 million in its Kentucky plant to focus on the production of the hot-selling RAV4 and the luxury Lexus ES 300.
The Georgetown, Kentucky, base is the largest Toyota manufacturing plant in the country; in 2016, it was responsible for producing 500,766 vehicles — made by and for Americans. Considering the fact that manufacturing as an industry contributes approximately $2.71 trillion to the U.S. economy, the added investment is expected to help in a number of ways. Although the funding won’t go directly to creating jobs in Georgetown (the facility already employs 8,000 people), it comes as part of Toyota’s plan to spend $749 million and add 586 new jobs across five states.
Because the nation is shifting their interest almost exclusively toward crossover vehicles and trucks, sedan and passenger car sales have been a bit rocky. Susan Elkington, president of Toyota Motor Manufacturing Kentucky, believes that focusing on the RAV4 will help solidify operations. There will be a bit of a wait though; the RAV4 model won’t be launching until January 2020 at their location.
Apparently, both new vehicles will be hybrids: Toyota’s long-term commitment to energy efficiency has pushed the company to feature combined gasoline- and battery-powered engines. They have already received 12 Energy Star Sustained Excellence Awards for their 14 hybrid models in the U.S., and are clearly seeking to join the race of sustainable motor vehicles.
Unfortunately, the tariffs threatened by Trump could be a major obstacle. With a shocking 25% addition to autos and auto parts imported into the country, the livelihood of hundreds of thousands of Americans could be put at risk; after all, you can’t build anything in the U.S. if you don’t have the necessary parts and components, many of which are made around the world.
Regardless, the workers at Toyota Motor Manufacturing Kentucky — as well as Governor Matt Bevin — are optimistic about the future. Bevin praised Toyota’s investment as an example of the company’s belief in the state and its manufacturing prowess.