Toyota Motor Corp. plans to begin building two more Lexus crossovers in Ontario, according to people familiar with the matter, a major win for the country’s otherwise-struggling auto sector.
The Japanese automaker will produce the Lexus NX compact crossover and a three-row version of the luxury brand’s top-selling RX crossover in Cambridge, Ontario, starting in 2022, according to one of the people. They asked not to be identified ahead of an official announcement the company has said it’s making at the plant on April 29 that will “further reaffirm” its commitment to manufacturing in Canada.
A Toyota Canada spokesman declined to comment.
Automotive News Canada reported in March the company has been considering new production for Canada.
Toyota currently builds the Toyota RAV4 at plants in Woodstock and Cambridge, Ontario.
Toyota originally said it would build gasoline and hybrid versions of the RAV4 crossover in Cambridge. It’s pivoted from that plan somewhat, deciding to instead build the gasoline-electric RAV4s in Georgetown, Ky.
That shift is opening up room in Cambridge for Toyota to build crossovers that, at this point, have only been built in Japan, the people familiar with the company’s plans said. The Ontario factory was built in 1988 and employs more than 8,000, according to the company’s website.
The RAV4 ascended to the top of Toyota’s U.S. sales chart in 2017. The crossover extended its edge over the company’s No. 2 model, the Camry sedan, last year by almost 84,000 units.
The RX is the longtime leading model in Lexus’s lineup, and the NX became the brand’s second-best seller in the U.S. in 2017.
Toyota also currently assembles the Lexus RX 350 and the RX 450h at a second plant in Cambridge, Ont. About 8,000 people are employed at three plants in Ontario.
Toyota is delivering a much-needed boost to Ontario after the blows General Motors Co. and Fiat Chrysler Automobiles NV have dealt to plants in the country since late last year. GM has said it has no future product planned beyond this year for its Chevrolet Impala and Cadillac XTS sedan factory in Oshawa that employed almost 3,000. The plant also finishes assembly of outgoing models of the GMC Sierra and Chevrolet Silverado. Fiat Chrysler has said it plans to cut a production shift and about 1,500 workers at its minivan plant in Windsor this fall.
Passenger-vehicle production in Canada is projected to drop by 20 per cent this year as GM winds down operations in Oshawa, Fitch Solutions Macro Research said in December. Production in Oshawa fell to about 148,000 vehicles in 2017 from a peak of 940,000 in 2003, a drop of about 85 per cent, according to Dennis DesRosiers of DesRosiers Automotive Consultants Inc.
Kristine Owram also contributed to this report.