Construction of the first Lexus assembly line in the US has officially begun, with the Lexus ES350 set to become the first US-built model to roll off the line in 2015.
The brand’s top-selling sedan in the US – 72,581 units were sold there in 2013, up nearly 30 per cent from 2012 – the ES has never been assembled outside of Japan.
Part of a US$360 million investment by Toyota into its Kentucky facilities, the production shift is in line with Japanese car maker’s strategy to assemble vehicles in markets where its customers live.
Lexus says the new assembly line will generate 750 new jobs, with annual production planned for approximately 50,000 units. The ES300h will continue to be imported from Japan to satisfy demand for the petrol-electric model.
Toyota’s largest in North America, the Kentucky plant started production in May 1988, employs approximately 6600 full time workers and currently produces 500,000 Camry, Camry Hybrid, Avalon, Avalon Hybrid and Venza vehicles along with 600,000 four-cylinder and V6 engines per year.
Locally, Toyota Australia is only months away from announcing whether it will produce the next-generation Camry from 2017/2018 or cease local production at that time, in the wake of the Australian exits of both Ford in 2016 and Holden the year after.