Toyota to move production of Highlander Hybrid to Indiana, US image

The world’s second largest carmaker Toyota Motor, on Wednesday said the company will shift production of its Highlander hybrid sport utility vehicle from Japan to Indiana, where the company will invest $400 million and add 400 new jobs.

The decision allows Toyota to produce an additional 50,000 Highlanders annually in Indiana, many of which it will export to markets including Russia and Australia.

As expected, the move is part of Toyota’s broader strategy to create an export hub in North America, partly to soften the impact of the stronger yen.

“This project is part of our localization strategy to build vehicles where we sell them,” said TMMI President Norm Bafunno.

“This announcement is a vote of confidence from Toyota Motor Corporation in the abilities of our team members and this plant.”

“There are so many North America-specific products that can fit in other markets as well,” Yoshi Inaba, president and chief operating officer in charge of Toyota’s North American operations, told reporters during the Chicago auto show.

The Highlander will no longer be built in Japan from 2013, Toyota said.

The Princeton plant in southern Indiana now employs nearly 4,000 people who make Sienna minivans and the Highlander and Sequoia SUVs.

Toyota sold more than 101,000 Highlanders in the U.S. last year, up nearly 10 percent from 2010.