Toyota to bring BEV manufacturing to US

Japanese firm will expand its Indiana site for vehicle and battery assembly

Toyota to bring BEV manufacturing to US
Toyota's Indiana site is set for expansion for battery and BEV assembly

Japanese OEM Toyota will invest $1.4bn to expand its Princeton, IN manufacturing site to build a new three-row BEV SUV for the US market. The Toyota marque currently offers just one BEV, the b4ZX, which is currently manufactured in China, while its luxury brand Lexus has a couple of all-electric offerings.

In a similar mould to fellow Japanese OEM Honda's announcement of a North American value chain, Toyota's Indiana project will involve vehicle making as well as a battery assembly line on the same site. The battery plant will use materials sourced from Toyota's battery materials facility in North Carolina, which itself is not set to come online until 2025.

"Toyota will prepare for assembly of an all-new, three row battery electric SUV in the US as part of a new $1.4bn investment in its Princeton facility, affirming Toyota’s commitment to reinvesting profits in its US operations and bringing total investment in Toyota Indiana to $8bn," the automaker says.

Toyota invested a total of $18.6bn into its US manufacturing operations to support 'electrification' efforts, although the company currently uses the term primarily to refer to hybrids. These investments include the North Carolina battery facility and its Kentucky car plant, where its Rav-4 hybrid is made.

The automaker has drawn criticism for ignoring BEVs in favour of far less proven technology such as fuel cell vehicles and solid-state batteries. But, despite having a lot of ground to make up in the BEV race, the newly announced SUV forms part of a six BEV line-up with which Toyota aims to sell 250,000 BEV units in Europe alone.

In its Q4 results call in February, the company revised its BEV sales targets downward and gave little mention of the fledgling new line-up. The OEM has sold 116,000 BEVs in its fiscal year 2024 thus far, putting it approximately on track to meet its guidance of 123,000 by the end of the fiscal calendar in May.

This is compared to over 3.5mn global HEV sales in the same timeframe. The firm, however, enjoyed strong growth in March as it delivered over 15,000 BEVs, an 84pc increase year-on-year. It should be noted, though, that these sales include the Lexus brand.

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Toyota's performance in its home market of Japan perhaps reflects why Japanese firms on the whole are lagging behind in the global BEV industry. Of Toyota's 116,000 battery electric sales worldwide in fiscal year 2024, less than 3,000 have come in Japan, reflecting a lack of appetite in the country for BEV technology.

That could explain the hesitance of OEMs like Nissan, Honda, and Mazda in their BEV strategies, and why they now face a rush to build out capacity as stricter sales targets loom in US and European markets.

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