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By Judy Clabes
Amid high praise for quality work by Toyota “team members” in Georgetown, musings about Lexington being renamed “Lexuston” and kudos to Kentucky for being a great place to do business, Toyota Motor Corporation officials announced today that its Georgetown plant had won a big prize. It will be the first place outside Japan to produce a Lexus.
And, not just any Lexus, but the Lexus ES 350 — top of the line luxury sedan — which will roll off the production line in Georgetown in 2015.
The move will generate 750 new jobs. To support the new dedicated assembly line, Toyota will invest $360 million in the Georgetown plant.
WIth a packed crowd of dignitaries, dealers, Toyota officials and team members at the Toyota Motor Manufacturing plant in Georgetown looking on, President Akio Toyoda, president of Toyota Motor Corporation and other company officials spoke via video-conferencing from New York City.
In the Georgetown crowd was former Gov. Martha Layne Collins who recruited Toyota to Kentucky in 1986.
“This is an excellent day of celebration,” she says. “I’m very pleased and proud that with everybody working together, this has been accomplished for Kentucky.”
About 50,000 Lexus vehicles a year will be produced, bringing the plant’s total annual production capacity to more than 550,000 vehicles. It will be the first time the ES will be assembled outside of Japan.
“Lexus was founded in the United States, so it is only fitting that we are bringing the production of luxury sedans for our U.S. customers back to where the brand was born,” said Akio Toyoda, president of Toyota Motor Corporation. “Today’s announcement is a major step in our Global Vision to make ever better cars and trucks, give regions greater autonomy to make the products their customers want and achieve sustainable growth globally.”
This is “our thoroughbred,” he said, “brand new global Lexus.”
“Since its arrival here in 1986, the impact Toyota has had on Kentucky has been immeasurable and the addition of Lexus production only adds to that enduring legacy,” said Gov. Steve Beshear. “Kentucky is proud of the confidence Toyota continues to demonstrate in our vibrant and skilled workforce as they prepare to make a vehicle model that, like them, has earned a reputation for high quality.”
Production of the ES 350 at the Georgetown plant is the latest step in Toyota’s continuing strategy to assemble vehicles in the markets where its customers live. Over the past 17 months, the company has announced plans to increase production capacity at its plants in Mississippi, Indiana, West Virginia and Canada, reflecting a cumulative investment of approximately $2 billion that has created more than 4,000 new jobs. Toyota also recently announced executive changes designed to provide regional managers with more local control and a streamlined decision-making structure to help the company deliver superior customer-focused products and services.
“Today’s Lexus ES announcement further strengthens Toyota’s commitment to serving American consumers, growing American production and investing in American team members,” said Jim Lentz, Toyota’s chief executive officer for North America. “We’re extraordinarily proud to have helped create over 365,000 jobs across the country and to produce so many of the industry’s highest quality vehicles right here in the United States. Today, Toyota’s 14 North American plants already produce seven out of every 10 vehicles that we sell in America, and North American-assembled vehicles are now exported to 23 countries around the world.”
Established in January 1986, TMMK is Toyota’s largest manufacturing facility outside of Japan, employing approximately 6,600 people. The plant currently assembles the Toyota Camry, Camry Hybrid, Avalon, Avalon Hybrid and Venza and manufactures 4-cylinder and V6 engines. It has earned 10 Initial Quality Plant Awards from J.D. Power and Associates, including four gold J.D. Power Awards.
In 2012, the plant produced the 25 millionth Toyota vehicle built in North America. Toyota recently committed to boosting production capacity for the 4-cylinder engine at the plant by more than 100,000 units. This $30 million project will create about 80 new jobs.
“The decision to move ES 350 production to Kentucky is a true tribute to the hard work and commitment to excellence of every single Toyota team member at this plant,” said TMMK president Wil James. “We deeply appreciate the tremendous support we have received from our community, from our local suppliers and business partners, and from Gov. Beshear and the Commonwealth of Kentucky. We look forward to strengthening further the productive partnership we have built together over the last 25 years.”
The ES is Lexus’ bestselling sedan, with approximately 58,850 vehicles sold in North America in 2012. The company remains committed to building three million vehicles per year in Japan, however, which includes Lexus models as previously announced.