DETROIT – Toyota is committed to the car segment, building vehicles in the U.S., investing in a sustainable energy future and encouraging mobility in all forms, company executive Jack Hollis tells industry observers attending an Automotive Press Assn. luncheon here.
Hollis, group vice president-Toyota Div., says the automaker’s North American mix of 40% cars could skew slightly more toward trucks and SUVs, but he points to the all-new Camry sedan – a North American Car of the Year finalist – as proof of the company’s allegiance to building competitive cars.
“We weren’t surprised, but we were honored to be on that list,” says Hollis. “We are hopeful that when we’re back here next month, Camry will rise above the competition.” The North American Car of the Year, chosen by a panel of automotive journalists, will be announced in January during the North American International Auto Show.
The Japanese automaker also has a joint project with Mazda to build a $1.6 billion plant in the U.S. by 2021 to manufacture the new Corolla small sedan, while Mazda intends to make CUVs there.
Asked how potential rifts in the North American Free Trade Agreement might hamper company plans, Hollis says Toyota has flexibility to adjust its production to accommodate changes in government policy. Changes in NAFTA might mean Toyota’s planned Tacoma midsize pickup production in Mexico, intended for North American buyers, might be redirected to other global markets.
The company’s North American exports in 2016 included 134,000 vehicles across nine model lines to 34 countries, Hollis says, but ideally Toyota wants “to build them where we sell them.”
Toyota also has big plans for its Tri-Gen Fueling Center at the Port of Long Beach, CA. The investment, announced during the Los Angeles auto show, will create a fuel-cell power generation plant with an on-site hydrogen fueling station.
The hydrogen station will support deliveries of the Mirai fuel-cell sedan and Project Portal Class 8 fuel-cell semi-trailer truck. The station won’t be available for public fueling, but Toyota is working with the California Fuel Cell Partnership and several Northeast states to build a hydrogen fueling infrastructure.
“Toyota is committed to leading the way for the development of fuel-cell technology,” Hollis says. “Sustainable mobility is critical to our business and to our collective future.”
Whether on not that mobility involves vehicles, the automaker is taking substantial steps toward making its mark as “The Human Movement Company.” Hollis says automotive technology is applicable to creating devices to assist people in navigating “whether it is across the room, across town or across the country.”
In Michigan, Toyota Research Institute has provided a $5 million sponsorship to help the newly created American Center for Mobility get off the ground. The ACM will be a large-scale facility and track for testing connected and automated vehicles.
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