Toyota announces investment in Camry plant
Toyota said on Monday that it is investing US$1.33 billion to retool its sprawling factory in Georgetown, Kentucky, where the company's flagship Camry sedans are built.
No new factory jobs are being added, but Toyota says that the upgrades amount to the biggest single investment ever at one of its existing plants in the United States. The retooling also will sustain the existing 8,200 jobs at Toyota's largest plant, where about one-fourth of all Toyota vehicles produced in North America are made, the automaker said.
"This major overhaul will enable the plant to stay flexible and competitive, further cementing our presence in Kentucky," said Wil James, president of the plant, which also assembles the Avalon and the Lexus ES 350.
The updates at the Kentucky plant are part of Toyota's plans to invest US$10 billion in the United States over the next five years, said CEO Jim Lentz of Toyota Motor North America, in a news release.
The Toyota investment has been in the works for years as it gears up for production of the revamped 2018 Camry, long the top-selling car in the United States. Toyota has said that the Camry's new underpinnings were designed four or five years ago, and the factory upgrade is needed to build the new car, which goes on sale late in the summer. The 2018 Camry features a new exterior design, an upgraded interior, and a new engine. The plant recently added more than 700 workers to support its launch.
"The (production) line itself is being retooled to accommodate this change," Toyota spokesman Scott Vazin said.
Toyota is betting that the changes will solidify Camry's premier sales position. That dominance is under threat from the popularity of SUVs.
"When the 2018 Camry hits the roads later this year, I'm convinced that it will have heads turning," James said on Monday.
The automaker said that the plans call for updating equipment at the Kentucky plant to streamline production and for construction of a new paint shop.
James said that the upgrades will position the plant "to compete globally for new models, build ever-better cars for our customers now, and enable us to respond quicker and more capably to market demands."
The investment follows the automaker's decision in 2013 to spend US$530 million in the plant to begin building the luxury Lexus ES 350 in Kentucky.
Last year, the Kentucky plant produced more than 500,000 vehicles.