Toyota adding 400 Indiana jobs in $600M answer to Trump

John Lippert
Bloomberg News

Toyota Motor Corp. will invest $600 million and add 400 jobs at an assembly plant in Princeton, Indiana, weeks after Donald Trump criticized Japan’s largest automaker for its plan to open a plant in Mexico.

The investment is part of a $10 billion spending plan over the next five years that the carmaker announced earlier this month to expand and modernize its U.S. factories, according to a company statement. The expansion in Indiana will boost production of the Highlander, Toyota’s second-best-selling sport utility vehicle in the U.S., by 40,000 units a year. The plant currently employs 5,100 workers.

“This expansion project is part of Toyota’s localization strategy to build vehicles where they are sold,’’ the company said Tuesday in its statement, which didn’t mention the president by name.

During his campaign, Trump criticized Ford Motor Co.’s plans to shift small-car production to Mexico. Since winning the election, he’s attacked General Motors Co., Germany’s BMW AG and Toyota by name for building cars or new factories south of the border and importing to the U.S.

In his call-out of Toyota on Jan. 5, Trump seized on plans Toyota had announced 20 months earlier to build a Mexico factory, which will supplement production of the model in Mississippi. Trump said in a tweet that Toyota should build the plant in the U.S. or pay a “big border tax.”

Toyota’s Princeton plant in Indiana built about 402,000 Sienna minivans and Sequoia and Highlander SUVs last year. The Toyota City, Japan-based company said it would invest $100 million and add 300 jobs at the same factory in August 2014, when Vice President Mike Pence was still governor of the state.

Pence met with Toyota executives on Jan. 10, though they didn’t discuss the carmaker’s operations in Mexico, according to the company.

Toyota is “100 percent in support” of Trump’s efforts to promote good-paying, middle-class jobs in the U.S., Jim Lentz, chief executive officer of the company’s North American operations, said in a Jan. 9 interview in Detroit.

“As we go forward, the next time we need more assembly capacity, we understand his desire to have it in the U.S.,” Lentz said, referring to Trump.

Toyota built 2.12 million vehicles from eight North America assembly plants last year. The company imported more than one in four vehicles sold in the U.S. from outside North America, mostly from Japan, a report by researcher LMC Automotive showed last week.