NAGOYA, Japan -- Toyota Motor will invest $1.33 billion in its largest U.S. auto assembly plant, a move that finally elicited positive remarks from President Donald Trump following his previous criticism of the Japanese automaker.
The investment announced Monday involves updating engine- and vehicle-assembly equipment as well as revamping the welding shop at a plant in the state of Kentucky. The overhaul will prepare the site for the June production launch of the Camry midsize sedan designed and manufactured under the Toyota New Global Architecture initiative, which aims to raise efficiency and quality via component standardization.
The plant upgrade is part of Toyota's $10 billion U.S. investment over the next five years announced in January.
The Kentucky plant opened in 1988 and churns out 500,000 units annually. The facility has 8,200 workers, having added 700 new hires recently.
Trump had railed against Toyota's plan to build production facilities in Mexico. But the company's announcement Monday contains a remark from Trump: "Toyota's decision to invest $1.3 billion in their Kentucky plant is further evidence that manufacturers are now confident that the economic climate has greatly improved under my administration."
This marks the first time the president has acknowledged Toyota's investment in the U.S. Toyota announced spending to expand an Indiana plant back in January, but Trump had remained silent until now.
The automaker has invested $22 billion in the U.S. over the past six decades, and switching facilities to accommodate Toyota's efficient production initiative will increase American spending further even as the company makes similar facility upgrades in Japan and the U.K. as well.
The U.S. market for new automobiles grew for seven straight years through 2016, but the growth is losing momentum. The Kentucky investment amid such a backdrop is designed to demonstrate a commitment to the American market. To dodge criticism targeting Japanese automakers, Toyota will highlight its efforts to sharpen the competitiveness of U.S. manufacturing and steadily increase employment.
The U.S. receives the largest amount of direct investment from Japan, reaching 5.7 trillion yen ($51.2 billion) in 2016, Japan's Finance Ministry says. Japanese companies are spending actively for acquisitions and capital investment.