Toyota preps $398 million Texas investment for truck upgrades

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Toyota Motor Corp. is laying the groundwork to invest nearly $400 million into its pickup plant near San Antonio, Texas, to boost efficiencies in the production of its midsize Tacoma and full-size Tundra as part of an ongoing shift in its truck strategy.

Bexar County commissioners approved a request from the Japanese automaker for a 10-year, 80 percent tax abatement for the proposed investment in the 16-year-old Toyota Motor Manufacturing Texas body-on-frame plant on Tuesday. The San Antonio Express-News first reported the abatement request.

No final decision on the investment has been made by Toyota Motor North America, said Luisa Casso, a spokeswoman for the plant. A final decision is expected in late July or early August. No additional jobs at the plant are anticipated, but the investment would boost the plant’s capabilities through the installation of additional robotics and other technologies, she said.

Automotive News first reported in April that Toyota’s next-generation Tundra and Tacoma would share a common platform — internally called F1 — that the automaker plans to spread to all of its pickups globally.

Current-generation Tundras and Tacomas are built in sequence on a shared assembly line in south San Antonio, while the Tacoma is also assembled at a pair of plants in Mexico. Although the two pickups share the assembly line at Toyota Motor Manufacturing Texas, they are built on different platforms, increasing complexity far beyond that of the 37 cab and powertrain variations of the two pickups.

A source within Toyota told Automotive News that development of the shared-platform pickups is near completion and could be introduced as early as next year for 2021 models. Details of what the shared platform will mean, in terms of design or potential features, remain unknown, although top Toyota executives have pledged to introduce fuel-saving hybrid technology into all Toyota models, including the automaker’s lineup of pickup trucks.

Toyota’s pickup lineup is the industry’s oldest. The current-generation Tundra dates to 2007, with major updates last introduced in the 2014 model year, while the third-generation Tacoma dates from 2015, with a freshened 2020 model introduced in February at the Chicago Auto Show.

Through the first half of the year, U.S. sales of the Tacoma were up 4.8 percent to 121,866, while sales of the Tundra were down 2.3 percent to 54,497.

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