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Toyota announced Friday that its large sport utility vehicle, the Sequoia, will start rolling off the assembly lines of its San Antonio plant starting in 2022.
The full-size SUV will be produced alongside Tundra pickups, on which the SUV model is based.
Production of the mid-size Tacoma pickup, manufactured with the Tundra at Toyota Motor Manufacturing Texas (TMMTX) since 2004, will end in San Antonio by late 2021. Tacoma production is moving to Toyota’s two plants in Mexico, including one in Guanajuato and the other in Baja California, where Tacoma models have been assembled since 2004.
The realignment, part of a companywide move by Toyota to locate its vehicle assembly based on common platforms and architectures, comes just months after the automaker announced major investments in technology at the San Antonio plant.
Local officials and a company spokeswoman said it also ensures the long-term sustainability of vehicle production at TMMTX.
“They’ve been very clear with us that their future is in trucks and SUVs, and by them basically doubling down on San Antonio and positioning TMMTX to be the exclusive producer of the Tundra and the Sequoia means they are fully confident in the future of San Antonio,” said Jenna Saucedo-Herrera, president and CEO of the San Antonio Economic Development Foundation (SAEDF).
Introduced in 2000 as the first Japanese-made full-sized SUV, the Sequoia slots between the mid-size Toyota 4Runner and the premium Land Cruiser. Last year, Toyota sold more than 10,000 Sequoias in the U.S., according to year-end sales reports.
Sequoia production at the Toyota’s Princeton, Indiana, facility, will cease by 2022 so the plant can focus on mid-size SUVs, such as the Highlander, and minivans. Toyota officials announced the realignment changes from the Indiana plant on Friday.
No workforce reductions or layoffs are planned at any of its North American facilities as a result of the realignment, Toyota officials said. That includes in San Antonio, where Toyota employs 3,200 workers and its nearby suppliers another 4,000. The company’s latest investment also has attracted new suppliers and regional job growth, said Luisa Casso, corporate communications manager for TMMTX.
“This is really a long-term plan and a very long strategy that Toyota looks at,” Casso said. “The building of a whole new type of vehicle – we’re going from a pickup to the building of a high-content SUV – which is a whole new area of processing and technology. And that’s what the company is investing in. The company is investing in the capability of our people.”
News that TMMTX will take over Sequoia production follows Toyota’s announcement in September that it would invest $391 million to upgrade the assembly lines in San Antonio as part of the company’s total $13 billion investment in its U.S. operations through 2021.
Toyota’s investment had an immediate multiplier effect in the region. Also in September, a major Toyota supplier, Aisin AW, said it would build a $400 million plant in nearby Cibolo, bringing 900 jobs, to manufacture automatic transmissions. Another automotive supplier, Continental Structural Plastics, announced plans to invest $65 million in a composites manufacturing plant in Seguin and add 200 jobs.
“This is quite a way to start a new decade,” said Mayor Ron Nirenberg told the Rivard Report. “And it just shows that the future of Toyota in San Antonio is strong. The investment in the capabilities has an exponential impact downstream, not just in the suppliers that are directly involved in the manufacturing process and all the workforce upskill that’s going to happen as a result of that, and the direct investment, but also the ecosystem that is surrounding this advanced manufacturing pipeline.”
An SAEDF-commissioned study estimated that Toyota’s added investment and the resulting growth of suppliers will deliver 40,000 total jobs and $10 billion in economic impact to the region in the next 10 years.
The foundation’s Saucedo-Herrera called Toyota’s investment a partnership that is paying dividends.
“There are all sorts of different innovative things produced here in the San Antonio region, and it’s neat to add the Sequoia to that list,” she said. “What I’m most excited about is the strong signal that Toyota’s confidence will send to the rest of the world, for San Antonio and for our region, that we are open for business, that we are well-positioned for advanced manufacturing operations, and that we’re ready for them.”
The Toyota manufacturing plant opened on San Antonio’s South Side in 2003 and has been operating at maximum capacity since 2016. There are currently 23 suppliers operating on the Toyota campus.
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Bexar County Judge Nelson Wolff said the timing of the announcement coinciding with the Senate’s passing of the U.S. Mexico Canada Trade Agreement on Thursday signals a strong economic future for San Antonio.
“That adds some certainty to the trade with Mexico and Canada and solidifies their back-and-forth base,” he said. “They talk about what we bring into Mexico in terms of price, but we also sell to Mexico through several suppliers so really … I think it’s a step forward.”
Nirenberg lauded Toyota’s contributions to the San Antonio community, including its pledge of $500,000 to the Alamo Promise program in September. “The Toyota impact has changed the trajectory of the San Antonio economy, and it has changed our city for the better in innumerable ways the two decades they have been here,” he said.
In the last 60 years, Toyota has assembled more than 40 million cars and trucks in North America where today it operates 14 manufacturing plants, 10 of those in the U.S.