Is Lexus Considering Manufacturing Vehicles in the USA?

Lexus ES 350

Fortune has published an article examining the possibility of some Lexus production moving to the USA:

So far Akio Toyoda has is hinting at moving only compact-car production outside the U.S., as well as buying more parts manufactured outside the country. But Lexus production, which is aimed mostly at U.S. buyers could be another category targeted for a move. Two of Lexus’s three German competitors have expanded production of Mercedes-Benz and BMW models in the U.S.

More than mere economics are in play. “I’m sitting on the fence,” said Mark Templin, head of Toyota’s Lexus brand in the U.S. “This is a complex decision that would come from Japan. But we could build more Lexuses here.” Templin said Toyota’s “pride,” which stems from manufacturing its most prestigious models in its home country, would be difficult to overcome if it decides to shift more Lexus models overseas.

With the yen performing so strongly, there’s no question the squeeze is on for all Japanese vehicle manufacturers — however, I have to believe Lexus will have the most difficulty shifting production outside of Japan. The “pride” that Mark Templin describes is not just an internal force within Lexus, but also something that plenty of Lexus owners share.

In the end, it comes down to volume, and with Lexus that means three models: the RX, ES & IS. With the RX already being manufactured at the Cambridge plant in Canada, that leaves the two sedans as possible transplants.

However, considering the IS is a vehicle sold around the world and the ES is mainly for the North American (and interestingly, the Chinese) markets, and then factoring in the Camry plant in Kentucky that’s already building the 2GS-FE V6 engine used in the ES 350, and the most sensible option quickly becomes clear.

All speculation, of course, but at from where I’m sitting, shifting at least some of the ES production to the USA makes a certain amount of sense.

[Source: Fortune]