Toyota’s good fortune means it needs to add 400 workers as soon as possible to its plant in Georgetown, Kentucky, the Japanese automaker announced Tuesday, as it needs to keep up with changing personnel and sales conditions.
The company is looking to supplement some attrition due to retirement as well as add to its workforce to build the new RAV4 and Lexus ES 300 hybrids.
It invested $238 million in the plant this year to ready for the two new models. Production on the new Lexus hybrid is already underway while RAV4 starts in January. The RAV4 was the best-selling SUV in the U.S. in 2018.
New hires at the plant, which is Toyota’s largest in the world, will receive a $500 signing bonus – a first for the company – if they remain on the job for at least six months, Toyota spokesman Rick Hesterberg told the Louisville Courier-Journal. He added Toyota needs the additional manpower “to maintain our business and continue our success.”
The move comes on the heels of the company revealing its plans last month to invest another $391 million at its truck plant in San Antonio, Texas, to expand production. The company has spent more than $3 billion on the plant that produces its full-size Tundra and midsize Tacoma pickups.
“We’ve been in the U.S. for more than 60 years, creating a tremendous value chain in this country and creating an extensive footprint in the Alamo City since 2003,” said Chris Reynolds, Toyota Motor North America chief administrative officer of manufacturing and corporate resources.
“With 10 U.S. plants, 1,500-strong dealer network, an extensive supply chain and other operations, we directly and indirectly employ over 475,000 Americans and are committed to investing here.”
The plant, which opened in 2007, employs about 3,200 people. The company’s Tacoma is the top-selling midsize truck in the country. It’s held the crown for 13 straight years, and it appears ready to retain that title for 2019.
The Georgetown plant is one of five in the U.S. that received $749 million in updates the company noted were coming earlier this year.
“These investments are not being driven by trade,” said Toyota’s North American CEO Jim Lentz in March, but rather by the need to adapt to rapidly changing U.S. market conditions that have seen a surge in demand for crossover and sport-utility vehicles.
All told, the carmaker now plans to invest $13 billion in the U.S. from 2017 through 2022, up from a previous target of $10 billion.