Posted by Heidi Schwartz
Toyota Indiana has announced plans to expand its operations and create up to 300 new jobs by 2016. The company will invest $100 million to boost production of the Highlander midsize sport utility vehicle at its Princeton plant.
“Hoosier-built products like the Toyota Highlander are known around the world for their precision and quality. And with suppliers in all corners of the state, Toyota is helping to strengthen and grow Indiana’s economy,” said Indiana Gov. Mike Pence.
Currently, Toyota Indiana builds the Highlander only in the West Plant alongside the Sequoia full-size sport utility vehicle. To meet increasing demand for the Highlander, annual production will be added to Toyota Indiana’s East Plant where the Sienna minivan is built. This step allows Toyota to use existing capacity in North America while providing additional flexibility to adjust its product mix to meet changing customer demand. This expansion will bring Toyota Indiana’s overall investment to $4 billion.
“The Highlander has been a great product for our plant,” said Norm Bafunno, president of Toyota Indiana. “Establishing Highlander as the ‘bridge vehicle,’ as we call it, between the East and West plants increases our ability to meet customer needs for all of our outstanding products. This exciting news is a true testament to the capability of our hard-working and dedicated team members.”
Established in Gibson County in 1996, Toyota’s Princeton plant was the second recognized wholly owned Toyota plant in North America. Toyota Indiana, the sole producer of Highlander in North America, also exports it to Australia, New Zealand and Eastern Europe. The Sienna is shipped to South Korea, Pacific islands and other countries, and the Sequoia is exported to the Middle East, making the Indiana plant a global supply base for SUVs and minivans. Toyota Indiana currently employs approximately 4,700 associates, of which approximately 84 percent are Hoosiers.
The Indiana Economic Development Corporation offered Toyota Motor Manufacturing, Indiana, Inc. up to $350,000 in training grants based on the company’s job creation plans. Gibson County supports the project at the request of the Gibson County Economic Development Corporation.
“We are thankful for the investment Toyota has made in their Princeton operation,” said Princeton Mayor Robert Hurst. “Toyota continues to show confidence in their Gibson County team members who build three of the best made automobiles in the world. We support TMMI and their suppliers as they are invaluable to our region.”
As part of his inaugural overseas jobs and economic development mission, Gov. Pence met last year in Japan with leaders of the Toyota Motor Corporation, including president and chief executive officer Akio Toyoda. Indiana is home to one of only four Toyota automotive manufacturing facilities in the United States.