Toyota Motor Corp’s Head of US Sales, Jim Lentz said this week that he thought it was only a matter of time before the company shifts a larger proportion of its production to North America in order to have assembly in closer proximity to the US consumer market.
The Lexus ES sedan could be one possible contender to move across the Pacific from Japan, but before any decisions are made Lentz added Toyota would need to weigh up the risks and significant costs of relocating with the strengthening yen and state of the market.
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Though substantial, moving costs could be offset by the US’ increased engineering capabilities, including the 1,100 strong workforce at Toyota’s engineering centre in Ann Arbour, Michigan. Lentz commented that US auto sales rose in the last quarter of 2011 and beginning of 2012, but accepted there had been a decline due to a lack of consumer confidence about taking out car loans.
Regardless, he said the company is standing by its previous forecast for industry-wide US sales, that of 14.3 million for the current year. Helping to achieve this target, as well as driving sales both now and in the future is not only easier access to lines of credit for new buyers, but the fact that the average age of the 240 million plus cars in the US is almost a decade.
Lentz ended his statement by commenting on the escalating economic turmoil in Europe, noting that though it may have a psychological impact on US consumers, the actual impact on US auto sales isn’t expected to be significant.