Toy­ota to in­vest $14b in the US mar­ket

Piako Post - - YOUR PAPER, YOUR PLACE - MO­TOR­ING

Toy­ota Mo­tor Corp will in­vest US$10 bil­lion ($14.2 bil­lion) in the United States over the next five years, the same as in the pre­vi­ous five years, North Amer­ica Chief Ex­ec­u­tive Jim Lentz said, to meet de­mand and up­grade plants to build more fuel-ef­fi­cient mod­els.

The Ja­panese au­tomaker has come un­der fire by Pres­i­dent-elect Don­ald Trump for its plans, an­nounced in 2015, to shift pro­duc­tion of its Corolla to Mex­ico from Canada.

Lentz said in an in­ter­view at the Detroit auto show the de­ci­sion was not in re­sponse to Trump’s re­marks made in a re­cent tweet, but was part of Toy­ota’s busi­ness strategy to in­vest in the United States, where it has 10 plants in eight states.

Plan­ning for the new Mex­ico plant be­gan about two years be­fore it was an­nounced in 2015, said Lentz, de­scrib­ing such de­ci­sions as long-term ones. Lentz said he had not spo­ken with Trump.

The US$10 bil­lion in­cludes Toy­ota’s new North Amer­i­can head­quar­ters in Texas that is un­der con­struc­tion and ma­jor im­prove­ments to its plants.

Toy­ota plans to ex­pand some of its US plants over the next five years, said Lentz, de­clin­ing to say if that ef­fort would boost jobs. Toy­ota, which em­ploys 40,000 in the United States, added more than 5000 US jobs over the last five years, he said.

Toy­ota Pres­i­dent Akio Toy­oda ap­peared at the show to tout the com­pany’s in­vest­ment plans and its up­dated flag­ship Toy­ota Camry that is built in Ken­tucky.

‘‘We are deeply grate­ful to the mil­lions of cus­tomers who have made Camry the num­ber one sell­ing car in Amer­ica for the last 15 years,’’ Toy­oda said. Lentz said ‘‘every­one’’ agrees with Trump’s goals of boost­ing man­u­fac­tur­ing and US em­ploy­ment, in part be­cause ‘‘it helps us sell more cars.’’

‘‘We have to run our busi­ness as a global busi­ness,’’ he said. ‘‘I have to make sure that we are com­pet­i­tive.’’

The com­pany is fo­cused on re­mind­ing pol­i­cy­mak­ers in Wash- in­g­ton about its ex­ten­sive US man­u­fac­tur­ing op­er­a­tions, Lentz said.

Lentz said Vice Pres­i­dent-elect Mike Pence, who was In­di­ana gover­nor, knew Toy­ota well be­cause of its man­u­fac­tur­ing op­er­a­tions in the state.

He warned that a ‘‘bor­der ad­justa­bil­ity tax,’’ like the one pro­posed by Trump if the car­maker builds the Corolla in Mex­ico in­stead of the United States, could hike the price of cars and hurt auto em­ploy­ment. Such a tax could add US$1000 to cost of a Ken­tucky-built Camry be­cause of some for­eign-made parts.

MARK BLINCH/REUTERS

Jour­nal­ists gather around the 2018 Camry XSE af­ter it was in­tro­duced dur­ing the North Amer­i­can In­ter­na­tional Auto Show in Detroit.

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