Lexus is now officially being produced in the United States, the first vehicle in the brand’s history to be made outside of Japan. This is a big step in both Lexus’ and Toyota’s quest to make their luxury vehicles a global brand. Both companies have some big, ambitious plans, and the first step of that process started yesterday in Georgetown, Kentucky.
Lexus’ presence in the United States is huge for the brand’s outlook, as the expected bump in production should result in more of the company’s vehicles on the road. You won’t only be able to find new Lexus’, but you should also find a number of used Lexus cars.
Continued reading to learn about Lexus’ start in the United States. Maybe you’ll be inspired to go out and purchase one of the company’s innovative vehicles…
We’ll refer to it as car number-zero. The first Lexus produced in the United States came off the production line yesterday, the first automobile manufactured by the company outside of Japan. The vehicle, a Lexus ES 350, was made at Toyota’s plant in Georgetown, Kentucky.
“Lexus was founded in the United States, so it is only fitting that we are bringing the production of luxury sedans for our U.S. customers back to where the brand was born,” said the president of Toyota Motor Corporation Akio Toyoda (via a Toyota.com press release). “Today’s announcement is a major step in our Global Vision to make ever better cars and trucks, give regions greater autonomy to make the products their customers want and achieve sustainable growth globally.”
As Sheldon S. Shafer of the Louisville Courier-Journal writes, the brand has invested nearly $360 million into a Lexus-specific assembly line at the Georgetown plant, including the hiring of about 750 workers (and the subsequent 1.5 million hours of combined training). This follows Toyota’s announcement that they’d be boosting production on their 4-cylinder engines to 100,000 units, resulting in a $30 million investment and creation of 80 new jobs.
“The decision to move ES 350 production to Kentucky is a true tribute to the hard work and commitment to excellence of every single Toyota team member at this plant,” said the plant’s president Will James. “We deeply appreciate the tremendous support we have received from our community, from our local suppliers and business partners, and from Governor Beshear and the Commonwealth of Kentucky. We look forward to strengthening further the productive partnership we have built together over the last 25 years.”
This isn’t sudden news, as Lexus and Toyota had been planning United States production for some time. Back in 2013, Toyota officials announced that their Kentucky plant would be producing Lexus vehicles, with the higher-ups estimating that the company would pump out around 50,000 cars a year. As Shafer writes, that would bring the plant’s total production capacity to over 550,000 vehicles.
Considering Toyota’s North American manufacturing headquarters is in Erlanger, Kentucky, it seemed surprising that the brand would set up their Lexus shop elsewhere. However, the Erlanger headquarters is expected to be shut down by 2017. This will result in 1,600 jobs being relocated to Texas, although Shafer notes that 300 engineers will instead be sent to the all-purpose Georgetown factory.
Furthermore, the company has been increasing production at their other plants in Mississippi, Indiana, West Virginia and Canada, committing nearly $2 billion to the cause. The company also announced that regional managers would now be receiving increased “local control,” as well as a streamlined decision-making structure to help the company deliver superior customer-focused products and services.” Needless to say, the company will be adding a number of employees in the coming months.
“Today’s Lexus ES announcement further strengthens Toyota’s commitment to serving American consumers, growing American production and investing in American team members,” said Toyota’s chief executive officer for North America Jim Lentz. “We’re extraordinarily proud to have helped create over 365,000 jobs across the country and to produce so many of the industry’s highest quality vehicles right here in the United States. Today, Toyota’s 14 North American plants already produce seven out of every 10 vehicles that we sell in America, and North American-assembled vehicles are now exported to 23 countries around the world.”
The Georgetown plant was established in early 1986, and it’s currently Toyota’s largest manufacturing facility outside of Japan. With nearly 6,600 employees, the plant is responsible for the production of the Toyota Camry, Camry Hybrid, Avalon, Avalon Hybrid and Venza (as well as 4-cylinder and V6 engines). Furthermore, the plant has received 10 Initial Quality Plant Awards from J.D. Power and Associates.
“Since its arrival here in 1986, the impact Toyota has had on Kentucky has been immeasurable, and the addition of Lexus production only adds to that enduring legacy,” said Governor Steven Beshear of the Commonwealth of Kentucky (via the press release). “The establishment of production for the Lexus ES 350 will afford Kentucky a tremendous opportunity to expand and strengthen its vast supplier base, creating even more growth potential in the future. Kentucky is proud of the confidence Toyota continues to demonstrate in our vibrant and skilled workforce as they prepare to make a vehicle model that, like them, has earned a reputation for high quality.”
The Lexus ES is the brand’s most popular sedan, having sold more than 58,000 units in North America in 2012 (including more than 56,000 in the United States alone). First introduced as a compact executive car for it’s first three years on the market, the vehicle was considered a mid-size luxury car from 1991 through 2012. From 2012 to the present, the car has been regarded as a full-size luxury car.
Known for its V6 engine and front-engine, front-wheel-drive configuration, the company has recently put an emphasis on prioritizing comfort. This has resulted in a revamped, luxurious interior, a quiet journey (regardless of whether you’re driving on a highway or on back roads), and a smooth ride. While some consumers may be enamored with the power and performance of a Lexus IS, there’s a dedicated group that favors that ES. After all, the series was Lexus’ best-selling sedan for 15 straight years!
The 2016 ES 350 starts at $38,000. The engine can deliver 268 horsepower and a 0-to-60 time of 7.1 seconds. To put the engine over the top, you can expect about a 31 mile per gallon highway fuel efficiency. The interior offers best-in-class rear-seat legroom, which adds just more comfort to the already-elegant seats. The vehicle also comes with Lexus Enform, a system that allows you to access a variety of functions without taking your eyes off the road, making the ES one of the most luxurious vehicles on the market.
The press release notes that Toyota is still committed to their projected production volume at their Kyushu plant in Japan, even with the expected increase due to the Lexus workload. The brand believes they’ll be able to produce 3 million vehicles per year in the country, including Lexus models.
Exciting news, right? These plans are certainly ambitious, but we’re confident that Toyota and Lexus are the two brands that could pull this off. It’s reasonable to expect an uptick in Lexus’ popularity, and that seems like one of the original intents. We’re excited for the future of the car brand, and the future appears to be very, very bright.