British Prime Minister Tony Blair and Hiroshi Okuda, president of Toyota Motor Corp., announced at a press conference Friday that the automaker has decided to expand an engine factory in Great Britain.Toyota will increase the annual manufacturing capacity of 1,000cc to 1,300cc gasoline engines at a Toyota Motor Manufacturing (UK) Ltd. plant by between 150,000 and 200,000 units. The expansion will raise the total capacity of the firm’s plant at Deeside, Flintshire, to some 350,000 to 400,000 units a year.Blair, who arrived in Japan on Friday on a five-day official visit, welcomed Toyota’s decision. The new investment will bring the firm’s total investment in Britain to some 300 billion yen and will mean the firm has created an estimated 3,000 jobs. “I’m delighted,” Blair said. “It shows again continuing confidence people have with the United Kingdom economy and in the fundamentals.”Blair also said that Britain will welcome further commitment by Toyota as well as investment by other Japanese companies. Okuda said, “We aim to further enhance our presence in Europe and this is in accordance with our policy of engaging in production where we sell our products.”The plant will supply engines for small passenger cars to be produced at a factory to be built in northern France, which Toyota announced last December. The automaker will also add an aluminum casting shop to the existing machining and assembly sections at the British plant by around 2000.

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