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GM, Toyota to boost N. American capacity

Keywords: Tags  General Motors, Toyota Motor Sales, manufacturing capacity, Mark Reuss, James Lentz, U.S. sales, Automotive News World Conference, Deutsche Bank Access Global Auto Industry Conference Corinna Petry

CHICAGO — Executives at General Motors Co. and Toyota Motor Sales USA have outlined plans to boost North American manufacturing capacity, citing the growing driving-age population, the aging fleet of vehicles on the road, an increase in Hispanics’ buying power and customers’ ready access to loans as solid drivers for auto sales.

Detroit-based GM has launched facility investment in the region of more than $10.2 billion since July 2009, North America president Mark Reuss said Jan. 16 at the Automotive News World Congress.

"We’re poised to announce another $1.5 billion or so in North American investments this year," he added, although he didn’t provide details. The company spends $8 billion per year on product development.

"This industry moved almost 15 million vehicles in 2012. That’s more than most people expected, sooner than they expected," Reuss said. "The auto industry is among America’s largest consumers of steel, rubber, glass and semiconductors, among its largest investors in (research and development) and is its largest exporter."

Toyota USA president and chief executive officer James Lentz was similarly optimistic. "(This) will be a great year for the auto industry and Toyota," he said Jan. 16 at the Deutsche Bank Access Global Auto Industry Conference in Detroit.

"In the last 13 months, we have completed or are in the process of expanding our North American footprint, with a $1.5-billion investment to open up new or expand manufacturing plants," Lentz said, adding that the Torrance, Calif.-based company’s 14 North American plants are near capacity after production rose 41 percent in 2012. These facilities make 70 percent of the company’s domestically sold vehicles.

"Some of the expansions (will) help accommodate the increase in our North American-built exports, which jumped by over 50 percent last year," he said. "We expect that number to increase this year."

The consensus among analysts is that U.S. vehicle sales will rise by 500,000 units to some 15 million units in 2013, an increase of more than 3 percent from 2012.

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