Toyota to make luxury Lexus model at Kentucky plant
BY ROGER ALFORD AND TOM KRISHER | The Associated Press April 18, 2013 4:38PM
FRANKFORT, Ky. — Toyota is preparing to announce a decision to produce a luxury Lexus model in Kentucky, a move that would create an additional 750 jobs, pushing employment at its Georgetown plant past 6,700 workers.
The automaker has scheduled simultaneous news conferences for Friday morning at the Georgetown factory and in New York to announce the plan.
Speakers at the New York event include Toyota Motor Corp. President Akio Toyoda, the company’s top executive, and Jim Lentz, CEO of the North American region.
The company also plans to hold a marketing event Friday night in New York for its Lexus luxury brand, fueling speculation that it plans to transfer production of a Lexus model from Japan to Kentucky.
Government officials who have been briefed by Toyota executives confirmed the carmaker’s decision to produce the Lexus in Kentucky. The officials spoke on the condition of anonymity because Toyota wanted to wait until the Friday event to announce the decision.
In an interview with The Associated Press last month, Lentz said Toyota studies sales trends for each particular model series and will add North American factory capacity when necessary.
“If we get to a point where we’re forecasting greater demand than there is capacity, depending on what series it might be in, we would raise our hand to build that increased capacity here in North America,” he said.
The Lexus ES series fits that description. Sales of the midsize luxury cars, which are offered in conventional and gas-electric hybrid versions, have nearly doubled so far this year compared with 2012. Last year, ES sales rose 37 percent. Toyota sold just over 56,000 ES models in the U.S. last year, about the amount that the addition to the Kentucky plant will be able to produce.
Lentz said Toyota would continue to move production to North America as a hedge against fluctuations in the value of the yen vs. the dollar. The company now builds in North America roughly 70 percent of the cars and trucks it sells in the region, he said.
The Georgetown plant, which already has 6,100 full-time workers, competed against other Toyota factories for the opportunity to build the Lexus.
Toyota already produces the Camry, Camry Hybrid, Avalon and Venza as well as engines and other vehicle components at the Georgetown plant. The state’s tax incentives would kick in when employment at the plant reaches 6,739.
Kentucky is home to nearly 450 motor vehicle-related facilities, employing nearly 80,000 people.
Besides the Georgetown Toyota plant, Kentucky has two Ford plants in Louisville and a GM plant in Bowling Green where the Corvette is made.