The $400 million AW Texas plant in Cibolo opened Friday, celebrated through a small reception attended by local city officials, leadership from Toyota and Aisin, which owns and operates the plant, and employees.

The grand opening for the plant, which will produce automatic and hybrid vehicle transmissions and supply Toyota’s nearby plant, was kept small because of rising COVID-19 cases.

Moritaka Yoshida, president of Aisin Corporation, was supposed to attend the event in person, but instead broadcast a video message to attendants from the company’s headquarters in Japan.

“While I normally would have joined you to celebrate this new plant together, I am doing my second best with this video message,” he said. “I want to express my sincere appreciation to all who made this day possible, including the members of the state of Texas and city of Cibolo.”

Yoshida called the factory a “concept and a plant of the future,” and said the company hopes to continue to expand it with an eye toward advances in vehicle technology.

Aisin expects the plant to employ up to 500 in the near future, and more than 900 as it expands. It already employs roughly 400, a representative for the company confirmed.

Aisin is the world’s largest manufacturer of automatic transmissions in the world, and has a payroll of more than 120,000 spread across 216 consolidated companies.

Rey Chavez, president of San Antonio Manufacturers Association, said the AW Texas plant is a prime example of the growing trend of manufacturers setting up shop in Texas — particularly vehicle manufacturers, in the Alamo region.  

“Everyone is seeing that there’s a workforce they can rely on, and a business-friendly environment,” he said. The presence of Toyota’s large-scale plant, which produces Tacomas and Tundras, is also a major draw.

Toyota’s truck assembly plant on San Antonio’s South Side has steadily expanded since opening nearly two decades ago, and is still in the midst of a $391 million expansion announced in 2019.

Later this year, Continental Structural Plastics, a company that produces composite vehicle components, is set to open its $700 million manufacturing facility in Seguin.

AW Texas’ brand new factory near Cibolo aims to produce over 200,000 vehicle transmissions every year.
The new AW Texas plant currently employs 400 people and expects to employ 500 in the near future. Credit: Nick Wagner / San Antonio Report

Truck manufacturer Navistar is set to open its $275 million plant on the city’s South Side in 2022. Engineers at that plant will support the company’s work developing self-driving, internet-connected and electric vehicles.

Most of these plants have enjoyed generous tax relief packages from local municipalities. The same is true for the AW Texas plant, which is Aisin’s third in the United States and first in Texas.

The plant, located on a 159-acre property purchased from the local energy cooperative, received an incentive package from the city of Cibolo and Guadalupe County worth a total of $22.6 million over the next 20 years. An economic impact study done at the time estimated that the AW Texas plant would generate sales and property taxes worth an estimated $3.7 million to the city and $4.5 million to the county.

Friday’s opening, though scaled back, still had attendees participate in a traditional ribbon cutting and a short tour of the factory, a representative with marketing firm KGB Texas confirmed.

The small size of the opening contrasted with the large celebration in November 2019 that marked the groundbreaking for the site, which Gov. Greg Abbott attended. Abbott at the time said the plant “puts Guadalupe County and Cibolo on the map,” and would lead to “massive development” in the surrounding region.

Waylon Cunningham

Waylon Cunningham writes about business and technology. Contact him at waylon@sareport.org.