Toyota’s Georgetown, Kentucky assembly plant is celebrating the start of U.S. Lexus production. That’s right, for the first time ever, Lexus cars are now being built in the good old U.S. of A. The first Lexus ES 350 models rolled off the assembly line this week at the plant, which also builds Toyota Camrys, Avalons and Venzas.
“This is really a proud moment for us and brings us full circle,” said Wil James, president, Toyota Motor Manufacturing, Kentucky, Inc. “To be the first wholly owned plant, building the number one best-selling car in America, the Camry, for 13 years in a row, and then to be selected to build the first Lexus is truly a tribute to our team members.”
For the past two and a half years, the Kentucky plant – Toyota’s largest in North America – has been gearing up to make the ES 350, Lexus’ best-selling sedan in the U.S. In all, $360 million was invested toward a new dedicated assembly line, adding 750 new jobs. Total capacity for the new line will be 50,000 vehicles.
“Localizing Lexus production is in line with our North American production strategy, and is rooted in our philosophy of building cars where we sell them,” said Toyota North America CEO Jim Lentz. “The Kentucky plant is known for being one of the top vehicle manufacturing facilities in the world. With our talented team in Georgetown building our popular ES 350, we’re positioned to better serve our U.S. customers now and well into the future.”
To prepare to build the Lexus sedan, team members underwent 1.5 million hours of training. They even tore apart ES sedans only to put them back together again.
“One of the first things we did was purchase 22 brand-new ES 350s from a local dealer, ” says Kentucky team member Mike Bridge. “We brought them in-house, and repeatedly tore them down into 2,000 pieces and built them back up. We learned every facet of this vehicle; how to put it together the right way.”
As part of the celebration of the ES’ arrival, Toyota is matching the 50,000 production-unit number with $50,000 in donations to a pair of local nonprofits: Horses and Hope, a statewide group that provides mobile cancer screenings and education at Kentucky’s four thoroughbred racetracks for fans and track workers; and Old Friends, a thoroughbred retirement center in Georgetown, Ky. that cares for retired racehorses, including 1997 Kentucky Derby winner, Silver Charm. Each organization received $25,000.