Toyota earmarks $391 million for next era of Texas pickup production

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Toyota is pushing ahead with its plan to boost efficiencies in the production of its midsize Tacoma and full-size Tundra pickups, which are moving onto a common platform, with a $391 million investment in its pickup plant near San Antonio.

The Japanese automaker said Tuesday it will “introduce advanced manufacturing technologies” to its production line before moving the two pickups onto a new platform, internally called F1, over the next four years.

Automotive News first reported in April that Toyota’s next-generation Tundra and Tacoma would share the platform, which the automaker plans to spread to all of its pickups globally.

In July, Bexar County commissioners approved a request from the 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.

No additional jobs at the plant are anticipated, a spokesman for Toyota Motor North America said. The investment would boost the plant’s capabilities through the installation of additional robotics and other technologies. However, Toyota Group transmission supplier Aisin AW Co., which supplies the plant, in July announced a $400 million investment to bring 900 jobs to a new plant nearby in Cibolo, Texas.

Current-generation Tundras and Tacomas are built in sequence on a shared assembly line in 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.

Toyota’s investment also includes a $500,000 donation from Toyota Motor Manufacturing Texas to Alamo Promise, a local agency dedicated to addressing poverty, enhancing economic and social mobility and meeting work force demands locally. The donation will take place over five years.

Including the most recent investment, Toyota Motor North America says it has invested over $3 billion into its San Antonio truck plant.

Development of the shared-platform pickups is near completion and is expected to be introduced beginning in 2021 with the 2022 Tundra. The Tacoma is expected to move onto the F1 platform in 2023 for the 2024 model year. 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 pickups.

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 August, U.S. sales of the Tundra are up 2.2 percent from a year earlier to 78,012, while Tacoma sales have risen 4.7 percent to 169,292.

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