In the battle for electric vehicle dominance, Toyota Motor North America is making up for lost ground.
The automaker said in a news release Wednesday it will build an all-electric SUV on U.S. soil starting in 2025 and it is investing an additional $2.1 billion to make the lithium ion batteries for it in the States, too.
The automaker’s first U.S.-built three-row electric SUV will be assembled at Toyota Kentucky in Georgetown, Kentucky, about 5 miles north of Lexington, Toyota said. Toyota currently employs about 9,500 people at the 9-million-square-foot facility where it makes the Camry sedan, RAV 4 SUV, several engines and other parts. The new investment will retain jobs there, Toyota said.
The batteries for the EV will be made at a new battery plant that is currently under construction in Liberty, North Carolina, about 15 miles south of Greensboro. When it is done in 2025, the automaker said it expects it will employ 2,100 people. Toyota is investing the additional $2.1 billion in that battery plant to support the company’s drive toward carbon neutrality, it said. Toyota’s total investment in the facility, called Toyota North Carolina, is now $5.9 billion.
“It is exciting to see our largest U.S. plant, Toyota Kentucky, and our newest plant, Toyota North Carolina, drive us into the future together with BEV and battery production for our expanding electrified lineup,” said Ted Ogawa, CEO of Toyota Motor North America.
Toyota has offered hybrid electric vehicles for years now but some industry analysts say it has been lagging in the race to bring all-electric cars to its lineup. Detroit competitors Ford Motor Co. and General Motors are still rolling out new EVs but both have offered all-electric rides in their lineups for the past few years. For example, GM launched the Chevrolet Bolt in 2016. GM will end production of the Bolt this year so it can start production on newer EVs such as the Silverado EV.
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GM plans to bring 30 new EVs to markets worldwide by 2025 and in its joint venture called Ultium Cells LLC, GM and partner LG Energy Solution have built a battery plant in northeast Ohio. It started running last year. Ultium Cells is constructing two more battery plants: One in Spring Hill, Tennessee, and another near Lansing. GM has started assembling new EVs, such as the GMC Hummer pickup, Hummer SUV and Cadillac Lyriq SUV at U.S. factories. GM has said all its brands will be all-electric by 2035.
Ford has invested $950 million in the Rouge Complex in Dearborn to build the all-electric F-150 Lightning. It is investing $11 billion to build two battery plants in Glendale, Kentucky, and a battery plant and truck assembly plant in Stanton, Tennessee. That creates 5,000 jobs in Kentucky and 5,800 jobs in Tennessee. Earlier this year, Ford, which offers the E-Transit, Mustang Mach-E SUV and Lightning pickup, said it hoped to make 600,000 EVs by year-end, and eventually make 2 million EVs annually by late 2026.
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Toyota and Lexus plan to bring 30 EVs to markets globally and sell up to 3.5 million EVs by 2030, spokeswoman Emily Holland said. Lexus, Toyota’s luxury line, plans to be all-electric by 2035.
Toyota is not identifying the EV it will make in Kentucky, yet. Holland said more information on it will be announced later this year. But Car and Driver speculated in April that it could be similar to the three-row Toyota bZ5X concept shown in 2021.
Toyota started selling its first all-electric vehicle called bZ4X SUV in the middle of last year. It is imported from Japan and starts at $42,000. Since launch and during the first four months of this year, Toyota Motor North America has sold 3,652 bZ4X EVs, spokesman Ed Hellwig told the Free Press.