The "Made in America" badge can soon be applied to more parts of Toyota's hybrids, and we have a giant pile of money to thank for that.
Toyota announced on Tuesday a $373.8 million investment in five of its US manufacturing plants. All five projects are scheduled to kick off this year, with everything buttoned up by 2020. The changes center on two important parts of Toyota's future strategy -- hybrid powertrains and the Toyota New Global Architecture (TNGA) platform.
In no particular order, Toyota will: add hybrid transaxle production in Buffalo, West Virginia; increase 2.5-liter engine assembly capacity in Georgetown, Kentucky; boost 2.5-liter cylinder head production in Troy, Missouri; make room for hybrid transaxle cases and housings and 2.5-liter engine blocks in Jackson, Tennessee; and upgrade the line to build new TNGA-friendly engines in Huntsville, Alabama.
The engines made in Kentucky and transaxles made in West Virginia will end up in hybrids destined for sale in the US, like the. Toyota did not specify what engines would go into TNGA-based vehicles in Alabama, which means there might be a future surprise in store for powertrain geeks.
The TNGA platform currently underpins a number of Toyota models, including the, and . The next-generation , which should debut in the near future, will ride atop the TNGA platform, as well. It's a versatile platform, accommodating vehicles with front-wheel drive, all-wheel drive and rear-wheel drive. Toyota will likely save a boatload of development money by using this single platform on as many vehicles as possible.
All this money won't create too many new jobs, however. Toyota estimates that the investment will add 50 new jobs in Alabama, and that's about it. It did say, however, that the money would "help to ensure the stability of the plants' employment levels in the future," according to Toyota's release.
"This investment is part of our long-term commitment to build more vehicles and components in the markets in which we sell them," said Jim Lentz, CEO of Toyota Motor North America, in a statement. "This strategy is designed to better serve our customers and dealers, and positions our manufacturing operations to fulfill their needs well into the future."