The Detroit News is reporting today that Toyota Motor Corp. is seriously considering Michigan as the site for a new engine plant.
Intensive lobbying by the state government has so far succeeded in persuading Toyota to investigate five sites in Michigan. There are compelling practical reasons for locating in the state, including a highly skilled labor force, and an established network of auto parts suppliers. Toyota already has other facilities in Michigan, notably the Toyota Technical Center and an Ann Arbor design studio.

The make or break factors will likely be political - would a Toyota factory be seen as a good-will gesture in the state most damaged by the ongoing painful restructuring in the North American automobile industry, or would it be perceived as a slap in the face to the Big 3 and the UAW?

For Toyota North America's management, the UAW is probably the long pole in the tent. The UAW has so far been unable to organize the Michigan facilities of Toyota and its suppliers, but the union is likely to focus all its resources on a high-profile manufacturing plant.

Perhaps the UAW is a non-issue. Earlier this year, Toyota announced that it will build a new RAV4 assembly plant in Ontario, the heartland of the Canadian Auto Workers union.

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