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Toyota to build more Highlanders in U.S.

Feb. 9, 2012 at 11:50 AM
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CHICAGO, Feb. 9 (UPI) -- Toyota Motor Corp. said it plans to invest $400 million in its Princeton, Ind., plant to increase production of Highlander hybrid sport utility vehicles.

The investment will add 400 jobs at the plant -- known as Toyota Motor Manufacturing Indiana Inc. or TMMI, Yoshimi Inaba, president of Toyota Motor North America, said in a speech to The Economic Club of Chicago Wednesday as part of the Chicago Auto Show.

"That's great news for this region … for our American customers … and for the U.S. economy because every auto job creates 3 1/2 'spinoff' jobs that support those workers," Inaba said.

Toyota builds nine Toyota and Lexus hybrid models, and has sold more than 1 million Prius hybrids in the United States since 2000. TMMI's 4,800 workers assemble the Highlander, the full-size Sequoia SUV and the Sienna minivan.

The $400 million investment in TMMI will allow the plant to boost capacity by 50,000 units to about 330,000 vehicles annually in the second half of 2013.

Increased production of the gasoline-electric Highlander Hybrid, introduced in 2005, will begin next year and increased production of the gasoline-engine Highlander will permit exports to Australia, Russia and other world markets, Toyota said in a release.

The Wall Street Journal said because of the strong value of the Japanese yen Toyota is shifting vehicle production out of Japan closer to markets where the vehicles are in demand. A strong yen makes Japanese products more costly in some markets.

Toyota has 50 overseas manufacturing companies in 26 countries and regions.

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