GEORGETOWN, Ky. (WDRB) – Toyota’s largest worldwide factory in Georgetown, Ky. will gain production of the hybrid version of the RAV4 sport utility vehicle next year, boosting the plant’s volume amid declining demand for the sedans it produces, primarily the Camry.
Toyota said Thursday it will spend $238 million to add production of the RAV4 hybrid, as well as a hybrid version of the Lexus ES 300, whose conventional model is already built in Georgetown.
The plant will be able produce up to 100,000 RAV4 hybrid models, which would represent a 23 percent boost in the Georgetown factory’s total 2018 volume.
The sedan market has declined as consumers shift to larger vehicles, lightening the plant’s workload and opening capacity for a new product.
Georgetown produced 430,224 vehicles, primarily Camry’s, in 2018, down from 500,766 in 2016.
“There is that shift of sedans, overall, in the market declining, and this allows us to replace them with SUVs,” said plant manager Susan Elkington, president of Toyota Motor Manufacturing Kentucky.
Adding the RAV4 will help the plant get closer to its 550,000 maximum capacity, Elkington said.
Toyota sold 48,120 RAV4 hyrbids in 2018. The vehicle is currently made in Canada and in Japan, she said.
No significant job growth is expected from adding the RAV4. The plant currently employs about 8,000.
Elkington said Toyota’s manufacturing framework called “global architecture” allows the plant to easily shift its production from sedans to SUVs, or vice versa, depending on consumer tastes.
“In five years, gas prices might go up, and there is a need to shift and produce more sedans again, and so we will have that flexibility to be able to go back and forth,” she said.