The Toyota Motor Corp., Japan's largest automobile manufacturer, announced today it will set up a wholly owned plant in the United States capable of turning out 200,000 cars per year. Production is expected to begin in 1988.
The factory will produce compacts in the 2,000-cubic centimeter Camry class.
Toyota gave no firm word on site or cost of the plant, but newspapers here reported it will be in the Midwest or South and will cost between $600 million and $800 million.
U.S. industry analysts estimated that a plant with the projected Toyota output would create about 2,000 to 3,000 jobs for production workers.
The plan, approved today at a special meeting of Toyota's board of directors, marks the latest bid by the Japanese auto industry to beat export restrictions and protectionist sentiments in the United States by setting up factories and creating jobs there.
It will also mean new competition for the Big Three American producers in the small-car market.
Industry analysts say the new Toyota factory will bring production capacity of all Japanese car-makers in the United States to about 1.2 million vehicles per year, which is approximately equal to Chrysler's output.
Toyota also announced today that it will establish its first car factory in Canada. Scheduled for a 1988 opening, it will have an annual capacity of 50,000 Corolla-type cars with engines in the 1,600-cc range.
In a third disclosure, Toyota said 50,000 Corolla-type cars per year will be produced at its joint-venture plant with General Motors in Fremont, Calif., to be offered for sale in the United States under the Toyota name. The cars will begin coming off the assembly line there in the fall of 1986.
Eiji Toyota, chairman, made the announcements at a press conference along with other Toyota officials.
"We have received many requests from our dealers and from government to set up plants over there," Toyota President Shoichiro Toyoda told Japanese reporters today. "We would like to cooperate. . . . We'd like to do our best to maintain good relations between the United States and Japan."
After the board of director's decision, Toyoda called on Prime Minister Yasuhiro Nakasone to deliver the news.
Nakasone was "delighted," Toyoda said.
Toyota produced 3.4 million vehicles last year, about half of which were exported.
It has vehicle or parts factories in approximately 30 countries around the world.
Like all Japanese auto companies, it is worried about long-term access to the United States. Under pressure from Washington, Japan is now limiting auto exports to 2.3 million per year.
A surcharge on imports being considered by Congress would hit hard at the Japanese auto industry, which had about $20 billion in sales in the United States last year.
"Toyota's move was bound to come," said Yasumasa Kumamaru, senior researcher at Daiwa Securities Research Institute. "We can't expect that Japan will be able to increase its direct export of cars to the United States."
This spring, full-scale production began at the California plant of New United Motor Manufacturing Inc., as Toyota's joint venture with GM is called. Output next year is expected to grow to 200,000 cars, all of which will be marketed by GM as Chevrolet Novas.
Toyota is concerned that its name and dealer network are not best served by this arrangement. It has therefore arranged to use a 50,000-vehicle unused capacity at the joint venture plant to produce Corolla-type cars under its own name.
Toyota has long been known to want full control of a major production facility in the United States, and the 200,000-unit plant will achieve that.
President Toyoda said no decision has been made, but the company is thinking of a 50-50 split between U.S. and Japanese parts in the cars.
Toyota's announcement marks the third major venture by the Japanese auto industry in the United States recently.
Mazda Motor Corp. is building a factory in Flat Rock, Mich., and Mitsubishi Motors Corp. is moving ahead with a joint production venture with Chrysler Corp.
Nissan Motor Co., meanwhile, is switching to auto production at its Smyrna, Tenn., plant. which was originally built to make trucks. Honda Motor Co. continues production in its Marysville, Ohio, plant.