Toyota invests $461 million in Kentucky complex; Lexus ES to move back to Japan

Toyota Motor North America plans to invest $461 million in its massive assembly complex in Georgetown, Ky., to expand its engine offerings and broaden the complex’s “ability to produce new products, including future electrification.”

As part of the announcement, Toyota said it planned to shift production of the Lexus ES and ES Hybrid sedans back to Japan before the next major model change, expected prior to 2025. The plant will continue to build the Camry, Camry Hybrid and RAV4 Hybrid. Toyota announced earlier this year that it was ending U.S. production of the Toyota Avalon sedan, which is also built at Toyota Motor Manufacturing Kentucky.

The Japanese automaker said the investment will be used in part to expand the complex’s powertrain portfolio to produce a 2.4-liter turbocharged I-4 engine that “will support an expanded range of vehicles produced in North America.” Currently, only the redesigned 2022 Lexus NX uses a turbocharged 2.4-liter engine.

Toyota also said the investment will pay for advanced manufacturing facilities and technologies and layout improvements to increase the assembly plant’s operational speed and flexibility, expanding its ability to produce new products “including future electrification.”

In addition to the product changes, Toyota said that it would offer direct employment at the complex to about 1,400 “variable team members” currently employed through Kelly Services, and said future hires there would also be offered direct employment, to improve recruiting and retention efforts. About 9,000 people work at the complex.

“As Toyota’s most experienced assembly plant in the U.S. with a workforce of about 9,000, TMMK must transform physically and strategically to meet the changing needs of customers,” Susan Elkington, president of TMMK, said in a written statement. “I am confident in our highly skilled team members who drive us forward every day as we prepare for the future of advanced manufacturing, whatever the products might be.”

The complex’s powertrain plant will also begin building fuel cell modules for use in hydrogen-powered heavy-duty commercial trucks, beginning in 2023.

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