The 2010 Highlander is now officially Toyota's 12th North American-built vehicle, with the midsized crossover rolling down the line at the Japanese automaker's Princeton, Indiana plant. Toyota has also streamlined its worldwide production in the process, as building the Highlander here in the States helps keep its West Virginia engine plant busy while Toyota's 250 suppliers increase production. Toyota says the addition of the Highlander to the Indiana plant also adds security to the 4,200 employees earning solid wages at the facility, and it notes that the company didn't lay off any hourly workers when production was slowed due to the economic downturn and plant retooling.
Bringing the Highlander to Indiana was made possible when Toyota consolidated production of the Tundra pickup from Indiana down to the purpose-built truck factory in Texas. At one time, the Highlander was scheduled to be built at Toyota's Mississippi plant, a facility that was never completed due in part to Toyota's lagging sales. The world's largest automaker by volume decided that it would be better to utilize the capacity that it already had in the States and abroad, and bolting together the Highlander in Indiana was a big part of that decision. The Highlander will be built alongside the Sienna minivan and the Sequoia SUV. Hit the jump to read over the Toyota press release.
PRINCETON, Ind. (October 8, 2009) – Production of the Highlander sport utility vehicle, Toyota's 12th North American-built model, began today at the company's plant in Princeton, Indiana. The $450 million investment is part of the adjustments Toyota began last year in order to better utilize manufacturing capacity.
Production of the Tundra pickup, originally in Indiana, was consolidated last fall in the Tundra plant in Texas. Since then Toyota Motor Manufacturing, Indiana (TMMI), which also builds the Sienna and Sequoia, has been preparing for the Highlander.
"Highlander production gives us better use of our capacity and demonstrates our continued commitment to the U.S. and the state of Indiana," said Wil James, TMMI senior vice president.
TMMI reacted to several months of slow production by retaining all of its 4,200 team members, who were further trained and improved manufacturing processes.
"The result is long-term sustainability of this factory, which is important to our customers, team members, suppliers and the local community," James said.
TMMI now represents a $3.7 billion investment. The addition of Highlander boosts production at other Toyota plants such as West Virginia, where the 6-cylinder engine is made, and at nearly 250 of Toyota's North American suppliers.
In Indiana alone, Highlander parts and components including items such as steel, brake parts and interior component assemblies will be provided by about 30 Tier 1 suppliers.
Since it was introduced in 2000, more than 1 million Highlanders have been sold in the U.S. The Highlander is available in Base, Sport and Limited grades in both two-wheel and full-time four-wheel-drive models. Features include: hill assist, Smart Key, flexible second row seating and a separate glass hatch.
Toyota (NYSE:TM) established operations in North America in 1957 and currently operates 14 manufacturing plants. There are more than 1,800 Toyota, Lexus and Scion dealerships in North America which sold more than 2.5 million vehicles in 2008. Toyota directly employs nearly 41,000 in North America and its investment here is currently valued at more than $23 billion, including sales and manufacturing operations, research and development, financial services and design. Toyota's annual purchasing of parts, materials, goods and services from North American suppliers totals nearly $25 billion.
Toyota currently produces 12 vehicles in North America, including the Avalon, Camry, Corolla, Highlander, Matrix, RAV4, Sienna, Sequoia, Tacoma, Tundra, Venza and the Lexus RX 350.
For more information about Toyota, visit www.toyota.com or www.toyotanewsroom.com.