Toyota to invest $400 million at Indiana site to produce Highlander Hybrid

Article by Anita Panait, on February 10, 2012

Toyota Motor Corp. will make an investment of $400 million for its Princeton, Ind. site, including the production of the hybrid version of the Highlander crossover. Although the plant already builds the Highlander, it does not have the capacity to produce the hybrid version, which is currently built in Japan.

Toyota expects to complete the upgrade of the plant and commence production of the Highlander hybrid by late 2013.

By then, the number of Highlander produced at the Indiana site will increase by 50,000 units, and Toyota will cease producing the vehicle in Japan.

In 2011, The Indiana plant built 101,868 Highlander models, according to the Automotive News data center. Toyota is also producing the Highlander in China for the Japanese market.

Toyota is planning to source its entire Highlander hybrid from the Indiana site to various markets worldwide, according to Toyota Motor North America President Yoshimi Inaba, in his speech before the Economic Club of Chicago.

Inaba said that the $400 million capital injection into the Indiana plant will create an additional 400 jobs. Inaba added that the company expects to sell 50,000 Highlander hybrids worldwide in anticipation of a new hybrid system and higher fuel prices. Aside from the Highlander, Toyota also builds the Sequoia SUV and Sienna minivan at the Indiana plant.

Toyota’s new Highlander is a popular family vehicle and remains so for 2011 as it caters to its market more effectively with more standard user technologies and amenities. Its Base and SE grades boast more convenience and more comfort than its predecessor. A 50/50 split 3rd-row seat plus a manual rear climate control are made standard for all Highlander 2011 models.

Also a standard for SE and Limited is the new Tech Audio. It is, however, optional for Base grade. It features a USB port, Bluetooth, and an integrated XM Satellite Radio (which includes 90-day trial subscription), helping ensure an array of "connected" capabilities. For the Base grade, this feature is just a part of an even more comprehensive package, which includes an 8-way power driver’s seat, a tonneau cover, an easy-clean fabric interior, an engine immobilizer, flip-up liftgate window, black roof rails, fog lamps, and a backup monitor featuring a 3.5-inch multi-information display.

Additionally, the Highlander Hybrid base grade has a new Leather Package, which includes front seats with leather trims and seat heaters, power moonroof, a leather-trimmed steering wheel, a leather-trimmed shift knob, HomeLink, an auto-dimming rearview mirror plus compass, and an engine immobilizer equipped with a security alarm. A navigation system, which used to be offered only on the Limited, is now also available as an option for the SE grade.

Meanwhile, the Limited now has standard automatic climate control in the rear and offers new perforated leather. On the other hand, the Highlander Hybrid Base grade has gained standard easy-clean fabric seating, as well as an 8-way power driver's seat, a third-row seat, a manual rear climate control, and the Tech Audio.

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