Toyota Shifts Highlander Production to United States

The automaker cited better U.S. market conditions and a drive to produce cars where they are sold.

Toyota on Feb. 8 announced that it will move remaining production of its Highlander SUV from Japan to Indiana, creating 400 U.S. jobs.

The automaker cited better U.S. market conditions and a drive to produce cars where they are sold.

Japanese automakers have had a rough couple of years, battered by supply chain disruptions caused by Thailand's floods and the 2011 Japanese earthquake and tsunami.

But they also have been hit by the record strength of the yen, which makes exports more expensive to foreign buyers.

The yen has gained almost 7% against the dollar in the last year -- reaching its highest levels since World War II -- despite Tokyo's interventions to curb its rise.

The move "will help Toyota capitalize on the improving North American and global auto market," Toyota said in a statement.

Steve St. Angelo of Toyota North America added: "This project is part of our localization strategy to build vehicles where we sell them."

Starting in 2013, Toyota no longer will build the Highlander in Japan, the company noted.

Toyota already employs 4,800 staff at its Princeton, Ind., plant where it currently builds the Highlander as well as the Sequoia SUV and the Sienna minivan.

Copyright Agence France-Presse, 2012

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