Toyota’s Trying to Remain Non-threatening in the U.S.

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While the Trump administration is carefully considering whether or not imported vehicles qualify as a threat to national security, and prepares for trade negotiations with Japan, Toyota is being very careful about how it comes across in America. Last week, the automaker announced plans to add about 600 jobs across the Southern United States — raising its proposed American expansion by another $749 million. In total, the company is expected to expend $13 billion inside the U.S. by 2022.

“In a time when others are scaling back, we believe in the strength of America and we’re excited about the future of mobility in America,” Jim Lentz, CEO of Toyota Motor North America, said of the decision.

Throwing some casual shade at other automakers who are cutting down their domestic workforce is a sound PR strategy but, according to Toyota, its increased investment has nothing to do with global or industrial politics. 

“We’ve been part of the cultural fabric in the U.S. for over 60 years,” Chris Reynolds, Toyota Motor North America’s chief administrative officer for manufacturing and corporate resources, was reported to have said on March 14th by Automotive News. “In a time when others are scaling back, we believe in the strength of America.”

Sounds like Toyota believes in the strength of America… and doesn’t want any of it focused against the business.

CEO Akio Toyoda spoke to Washington on Friday, reportedly claiming discussion of imported vehicles as a security threat makes him “feel sad.” But Toyota has pledged its support of a new trade agreement between the United States, Mexico and Canada, and was eager to see productive negotiations begin between Japan and America.

From Automotive News:

Toyota, whose American factory work force has grown to be about half the size of GM’s, could soon find itself forced to invest even more in the U.S. if it wants to avoid tariffs that would raise the prices of some vehicles. Reynolds and CEO Jim Lentz said they are eager to learn whether the Trump administration will indeed declare imported vehicles to be a national security threat and go forward with tariffs, so they can determine whether additional production needs to be shifted.

But they also said the company, which imports about half of its U.S. sales volume, won’t make any knee-jerk decisions either way.

“Our investment cycles go beyond any particular political cycle. We need to make decisions based on what we think the market needs rather than the policy direction of the moment,” Reynolds said. “All of this activity, I hope, shows that we’re a plus factor to the economic national security of the United States.”

Back in 2017, Toyota said it planned on investing $10 billion into its North American operations over five years. Since then, that sum has climbed to $13 billion. Toyota also recently said it would utilize the $749 million to expand facilities and/or add jobs in Huntsville, AL; Buffalo, WV; Jackson, TN; Georgetown, KY; and Troy, MO.

[Image: Toyota]

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