Toyota to Pick North American Site for Hybrid Production in June
TOKYO, JAPAN — Toyota Motor Corp. will decide in June where in North America to build its hybrid vehicles, Toyota President Fujio Cho said on March 10, according to the Bloomberg News Service.Toyota will also decide at that time which hybrid model it will make in North America, Cho said March 10. The company's U.S. sales unit now imports its only hybrid, the Prius, from Japan. At least 20 U.S. states, including the three where Toyota now builds autos, have contacted the company in hopes of winning a new production operation, Toyota officials have said.Demand for fuel-saving hybrids could grow to as much as 10 percent of total U.S. new vehicle sales by 2010, Jim Press, Toyota's U.S. managing director, said last month. U.S. sales of Toyota's Prius more than doubled this year through February to 12,644 from 6,140 a year earlier. Honda Motor Co. and Ford Motor Co. also sell hybrids in the U.S.Toyota will probably select an existing plant, rather than build a new one for the hybrid, said Joe Langley, an analyst for auto market forecaster CSM Worldwide in Farmington, Michigan. ``They'll want to leverage the expertise of current workers, rather than train new ones to do this,' Langley said.Toyota has U.S. auto assembly plants in Kentucky, Indiana and California and will open a plant in Texas next year. Toyota also builds vehicles in Ontario and Mexico's Baja California.The company is “examining various possibilities and we haven't made any final decisions yet” on hybrid production, said Dennis Cuneo, senior vice president of Toyota's North American unit in New York, said today. Toyota said it will export its next U.S. hybrids, the Lexus RX 400h and Highlander sport-utility vehicles, when they go on sale this year. Toyota has also said it's raising hybrid production capacity by about 50 percent to cut the waiting period for customers and double U.S. sales of such models to more than 100,000 units this year. California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger last November met with Toyota officials in Japan, including Cho, to persuade the company to make hybrids in the state. California is the biggest market for such vehicles.The company builds Lexus RX 330 SUVS in Cambridge, Ontario, the model on which the RX 400h hybrid is based. Atsushi Niimi, head of Toyota's North American manufacturing group, said in January there's room to lift production capacity on that line.