Subaru Ascent pic
First '19 Ascent rolls off assembly line in Lafayette, IN, on May 7 and will be available for sale in mid-2018.

Subaru Ascent Job One Rolls Off Line; Toyota Investing in Canada Plants

The Japanese automakers are expanding their production of CUVs, a vehicle type destined to make up 70% of the U.S. sales mix in calendar-year 2018.

Subaru begins production builds of its new large CUV, the Ascent, May 7 at its Lafayette, IN, plant.

The addition of the 3-row, 8-passenger utility vehicle is the result of a $140 million investment in the almost 29-year-old Lafayette plant by Subaru. The funds went toward new equipment and expansion, the automaker says.

Lafayette, the Japanese automaker’s sole U.S. vehicle-assembly facility, already is the home to the popular Outback midsize CUV, Subaru’s best-selling model in the U.S. through April with 58,205 sales. The plant also builds the Legacy midsize sedan and Impreza compact sedan and hatchback.

Subaru says it is creating 200 jobs at Lafayette as the result of the Ascent’s addition.

Lafayette expanded to add Impreza output nearly two years ago and Subaru says in the past five years it has added more than 2,000 to the employee roster and invested $1.5 billion.

The ’19 Ascent goes on sale this summer in the U.S. and Subaru pegs Lafayette’s total 2018 output at about 400,000 units.

Wards Intelligence data shows Subaru assembled 363,414 vehicles there in 2017, forecasts 372,347 this year and 407,581 units of annual production in 2019.

Meanwhile, Toyota announced last week it will invest $1.1 billion (C$1.4 billion) to update three Canadian plants, including its Cambridge and Woodstock, ON, vehicle-assembly plants making popular midsize CUVs, as well as invest in local R&D.

The money will go toward making the plants compatible with its Toyota New Global Architecture (TNGA) platform, set to underpin next generations of the RAV4, assembled in Woodstock, and Lexus RX, assembled in Cambridge. The paint and plastics' shops automation will be updated as part of the investment.

As announced at the recent New York auto show, Toyota will introduce assembly of the hybrid variant of the RAV4 to Canada. The current-gen RAV4 hybrid is imported to North America from Japan.

Bloomberg reports the investments will spur 450 new jobs across the plants and were offset by $170 million (C$220 million) from the Canadian federal and Ontario provincial governments. Canadian auto manufacturing has been beset by job losses in recent years, as automakers flee the high-cost country in favor of assembly in the relatively less-expensive U.S. and Mexico.

Woodstock and Cambridge, the latter consisting of two assembly plants – one soon to change from Corolla compact-car output to RAV4 builds – employ about 8,000.

Wards Intelligence data shows Toyota assembled 571,537 vehicles in Canada last year, is on target to achieve 541,577 this year and is forecast to build 548,162 in 2019.

The RAV4 became Toyota’s best-selling vehicle in the U.S. last year, overtaking the Camry sedan, while the RX is Lexus’ longtime No.1 model, contributing roughly 100,000 units in U.S. sales every year.

TAGS: Technology
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