Production of the Toyota Highlander compact sport utility vehicle began this month at the company’s plant in Princeton, Indiana. The $450 million investment is part of the sweeping readjustments loss-making Toyota began last year in order to rationalize its manufacturing capacity in North America.
The abrupt change in direction came after the collapse of the full-size SUV and pickup truck markets left its aggressive business plan in tatters.
Toyota had bet — and ultimately lost — billions of dollars on a gamble that American truck buyers who favor Ford, General Motors and Dodge offerings, would defect to a Japanese product. That bet came just as record fuel prices eliminated trucks as and automotive fashion accessory for casual buyers.
Production of the Tundra pickup, originally in Indiana, was consolidated last fall in the brand new Tundra plant in San Antonio, Texas, which was originally developed with a planned capacity of 500,000 units annually.
The Tundra recorded September sales of only 6,308 units.