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Toyota to expand Highlander production, add 300 workers

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Toyota announced Friday it will spend $100 million to boost production of the Highlander SUV at its southwestern Indiana factory, with plans to add 300 workers in the next couple of years.

Company officials said the project would allow it to build up to 30,000 more Highlanders a year at the factory near Princeton, about 25 miles north of Evansville. It is the only factory that builds Highlanders in North America, and also exports the midsize SUV to Australia, New Zealand and Eastern Europe, according to Toyota.

The factory, which began production in 1998, now has about 4,700 workers and also produces Sienna minivans and Sequoia SUVs. About 600 workers have been added there since Toyota announced plans in 2012 to increase annual Highlander production to 180,000 vehicles.

The 300 new jobs are expected to be added by summer 2016, Toyota said.

Norm Bafunno, the president of Toyota Indiana, said the increased Highlander production will also make the Princeton factory better able to adjust to customer demand. Toyota says it sold about 90,000 Highlanders through the first seven months of this year, an increase of 16 percent over the same period the previous year.

"The Highlander has been a great product for our plant," Bafunno said.

Gov. Mike Pence praised Toyota's decision to boost production at the factory.

"With suppliers in all corners of the state, Toyota is helping to strengthen and grow Indiana's economy," he said.

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