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Indiana a likely contender for Toyota plants

January 12, 2007
Toyota Motor Corp. probably will look closely at Indiana as it adds assembly plants to meet its rising sales, according to Kim Hill, associate director of the not-for-profit Center for Automotive Research in Ann Arbor, Mich.

Now ramping up its Tundra pickup truck plant in San Antonio, the Japanese automaker is thought to be considering sites in North Carolina, Tennessee and other Southern states for its next plant, The Wall Street Journal reported recently.

But as Toyota challenges Ford Motor Co. to become the second-largest car company in the U.S., Toyota could justify building one plant a year for several more years, Hill said.

Hill doesn’t doubt a recent Bloomberg report that cited an unidentified source saying Toyota will build five plants in North America in the next 10 years. One of the five is likely to be built in the Southeast and another in Mexico, the source said.

Indiana likely would be a front-runner for Toyota because the state is close to existing suppliers and is flush with experienced workers laid off from other manufacturing jobs, Hill said. Toyota also has experience manufacturing in the state through its plant in Princeton, where it makes pickups, vans and sport-utility vehicles.

Toyota is struggling to staff the Texas truck plant, having poured through 100,000 applications to find the 1,000 it has hired. But 1,000 more hires are needed, Hill noted.

Logical locations for Toyota to build in Indiana would be between Princeton and its plant in Georgetown, Ky., he said.

Another spot might be near Lafayette, where Toyota is gearing up to build Camry sedans on an assembly line at the Subaru of Indiana Automotive Inc. plant.

Still another potential area is in northern Indiana, possibly near South Bend, in order to take advantage of deep worker experience in manufacturing.

“There are a lot of places they can go,” Hill said.
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