Cleveland, Ohio – Toyota plans to spend $1.33 billion to upgrade its massive Georgetown, Kentucky, plant, one of the largest automotive plants in the world. Producing about 550,000 vehicles and 600,000 engines per year, the 32-year-old facility is responsible for the Camry and Avalon sedans, the Venza hatchback, and the Lexus ES350 sedan.
Toyota’s largest plant worldwide, Georgetown is an integrated plant with stamping, body weld, paint, assembly, and powertrain performed by 8,200 employees in 8.1 million square feet of floor space.
Company spokesman Rick Hesterberg says despite the huge price tag, the investments are for equipment upgrades, engineering work, and new tooling, not for new capacity or products in Kentucky.
“This $1.33 billion investment is part of Toyota’s plan to invest $10 billion dollars in the U.S. over the next five years, on top of the nearly $22 billion Toyota has invested in the U.S. over the past 60 years,” says Jim Lentz, CEO of Toyota Motor North America.
The cash infusion will prepare Georgetown for Toyota’s modular vehicle platform manufacturing system – the Toyota New Global Architecture. The 2018 Camry will be the first U.S. vehicle to be built using a common set of components and systems. Automakers use global architectures to cut vehicle development costs and to share components between different types of vehicles – gaining economies of scale.
“Toyota New Global Architecture is about exciting, ever-better vehicles for our customers as it will improve performance of all models, including increased fuel efficiency, more responsive handling, and a more stable, comfortable feel while driving,” Lentz says.
Another advantage of modular design is flexibility. With the Camry and crossovers such as the Toyota Highlander built using similar sets of components, plants could theoretically swap out products for higher-demand vehicles almost instantly. In practice, such capacity moves tend to be limited by supply chains, but Toyota has successfully flexed production between multiple plants in the past.
The $1.3 billion investment is Toyota’s first in Georgetown since 2013 when it spent $530 million to add Lexus production to the facility.
About the author: Robert Schoenberger is the editor of Today's Motor Vehicles and a contributor to Today's Medical Developments and Aerospace Manufacturing and Design. He has written about the automotive industry for more than 17 years at The Plain Dealer in Cleveland, Ohio; The Courier-Journal in Louisville, Kentucky; and The Clarion-Ledger in Jackson, Mississippi.