At a press conference in New York, Toyota president Akio Toyoda announced today that the automaker will build the Lexus ES350 sedan at its plant in Georgetown, Kentucky. The ES is the best-selling Lexus model here, and the U.S. is the luxury brand's largest market.
Toyota plans to invest $360 million to upgrade the Georgetown facility, which will start building the ES350 in 2015. The move is expected to add 750 new jobs. The factory will be able to build about 50,000 units of the ES350 each year. Last year, Lexus sold 56,158 ES350 sedans in the U.S.; Americans have purchased 1.2 million Lexus ES sedans since 1990.
"Americans love the ES," Toyoda said in the press conference.
Toyoda also said that moving production of the luxury sedan to Kentucky will help shield customers from changing exchange rates, and strengthens the company's commitment to manufacturing in the U.S. Georgetown was Toyota's first standalone manufacturing plant in this country. It currently builds the Camry, Camry Hybrid, Avalon, Avalon Hybrid, Venza, and four- and six-cylinder engines. Annual production capacity is currently 500,000 cars, and will rise to 550,000 with the addition of the ES.
Toyoda said that bringing Lexus ES350 production here was the first major decision made by Toyota's new American leadership ranks. Jim Lentz was appointed CEO of Toyota Motor Sales, USA, in March, making him the first American to hold that position in North America. "I am very confident in this new American leadership team," Toyoda said.
The new 2013 Lexus ES350 was introduced at the 2012 New York auto show, alongside the ES300h hybrid version that will continue to be produced in Japan.The ES350 has a 268-hp, 3.5-liter V-6 engine, a six-speed automatic transmission, and front-wheel drive. Pricing starts at $37,265, after an $895 destination charge.