A growing trend is bringing manufacturing jobs back to North America, and foreign companies aren’t immune to it, evidenced by Toyota’s announcement that it is investing $100 million a Canadian plant to increase local production of the Lexus RX luxury crossover.
The move is expected to create 400 jobs for Toyota’s Cambridge, Ontario, manufacturing plant, and it will help add 30,000 Lexus RXs to the Canadian plant. Half of the new Lexus production will be RX 450h models, hybrids which are currently only built in Japan, bringing Lexus RX production to 104,000 in North America.
“This Lexus production increase, and the several announcements before it, reflects our growing optimism for an improving North American market and our intent to localize more production,” says Steve St. Angelo, Executive Vice President of Toyota’s North America Motor Engineering and Manufacturing, in a statement.
With auto manufacturing, many Japanese and European automakers have begun moving production closer to their markets of sale to better control costs. In the case of Toyota, a weakened dollar versus the yen has made it expensive to compensate for fluctuating currencies on the exchange market; without shifting manufacturing, Toyota would have to raise prices to compensate.
Last year in Toyota’s fumble caused by Japan’s earthquake and tsunami, Lexus sold 82,595 RXs in the U.S., down from 95,790 from the year before. Through June, numbers were up 10 percent versus 2011 figures.
Currently, Toyota uses its Cambridge and nearby Woodstock plants to manufacture the Toyota Corolla, Matrix, RAV4, upcoming Tesla-powered RAV4 EV we’re driving next week, and the Lexus RX. And before adding the new jobs, Toyota counts 6,500 people as part of its Canadian workforce.
Toyota says its West Virginia, Alabama, Kentucky, and Indiana plants have benefited from expanded North American production. In total, Toyota has announced $745 million in expansions worth about 1,500 new employees for North America.
It goes to show that this whole economy thing is a big cycle. As a region becomes a cheaper venue in which to manufacture, jobs go up. But as it because expensive, the opposite happens. This time, it looks like we finally got lucky.