Georgetown plant produces only US-made Lexus after $360M expansion, 750 new jobs
Georgetown, Ky. – To much fanfare, Toyota unveiled the first Lexus manufactured in United States yesterday at Toyota Motor Manufacturing Kentucky (TMMK).
TMMK’s production of the luxury-model Lexus ES 350, the top-selling Lexus sedan worldwide, is creating 750 new Kentucky jobs with an investment of $360 million in the project. The expansion allows TMMK to produce about 50,000 Lexus vehicles per year.
For the past two and a half years, the Kentucky plant – Toyota’s largest in North America – has been gearing up to make the ES 350, Lexus’ best-selling sedan in the U.S. In all, $360 million was invested toward a new dedicated assembly line, adding 750 new jobs. Total capacity for the new line will be 50,000 vehicles.
“To be chosen to build the Lexus ES 350 is a great honor for not only Toyota, but the state of Kentucky,” said Wil James, president of Toyota Motor Manufacturing, Kentucky Inc. “It brings us full circle in that we were the first wholly owned plant for Toyota in North America, and, now, we are the first to build Lexus in the United States.”
To prepare to build the Lexus sedan, team members underwent 1.5 million hours of training. This included trips to Japan for many to learn the art of Lexus craftsmanship. It also meant spending time behind the wheel of an ES, driving it on Kentucky roads, and dealership visits to gain an understanding of customer expectations and customer service.
With the addition of the Lexus units, the Kentucky plant will have capacity to build more than 550,000 vehicles a year. Total employment now stands at over 7,500.
In turn, this is welcome news to Kentucky Governor Steve Beshear.
“This is an important day for the Commonwealth. For Lexus to have the confidence in our Kentucky workforce to build this magnificent car speaks volumes. These additional 50,000 vehicles are further proof that the state of Kentucky is a great place to do business for the automotive industry.”
It was during a visit by Gov. Beshear to Toyota’s headquarters in Japan that the possibility of this significant project came to light. As a proactive measure, Gov. Beshear worked with the Kentucky General Assembly to pass legislation expanding the Kentucky Jobs Retention Act (KJRA), an incentive program designed to spur job creation and significant investments in Kentucky’s automotive and parts manufacturing facilities.
KJRA was originally designed to encourage recent investment and job growth by Ford Motor Co. in Louisville. Gov. Beshear recognized the legislation’s potential for other automakers and large parts-manufacturing facilities. He signed House Bill 400 in 2012, making the incentive accessible to Toyota and other major companies.
The following spring, Toyota received approval from the Kentucky Economic Development Finance Authority for incentives through the newly expanded KJRA program, paving the way to the $360 million Lexus investment. The project also included other plant upgrade investments totaling $171.2 million. In total, the investment marks the second-largest by Toyota in its Georgetown facility and the largest since an $800 million addition in 1991.