NEW YORK - Toyota Motor Corp. said Tuesday it will invest $600 million and add 400 jobs at one of its U.S. plants, making the announcement a few weeks after U.S. President Donald Trump took aim at the automaker’s investments in Mexico.
The project is part of Toyota’s plan to spend $10 billion on capital investments in the United States over the next five years, as announced on Jan. 9.
The investment will be used for retooling, new equipment and cutting-edge technologies at its Princeton, Indiana, plant in order to manufacture an additional 40,000 Highlanders per year, Toyota said in a statement.
The production is scheduled to begin in fall 2019. The plant made more than 400,000 vehicles in 2016 and currently employs about 5,300 workers.
“This expansion project is part of Toyota’s localization strategy to build vehicles where they are sold,” the company said, making no reference to Trump.
On Jan. 5, Trump railed against Toyota for its 2015 announcement of plans to build a Mexico factory. Trump said in a tweet that the company should build the plant in the United States or pay a “big border tax.”
Toyota announced the $10 billion plan on Jan. 9, saying that it has spent $21.9 billion on direct investment in the United States and has 10 manufacturing facilities, 1,500 dealerships and 136,000 employees in the country.
Indiana is where Vice President Mike Pence served as governor. Toyota President Akio Toyoda met with Pence in Washington on Jan. 10.
Since his election in November, Trump has been touting his “America First” economic agenda by pressing companies to keep jobs and production in the United States. He won such key industrial states as Ohio, Michigan and Pennsylvania with promises of protecting jobs.
On Monday, Trump accused Japan and China of engaging in trade practices that he said are “not fair” to American companies, while singling out auto trade with Japan as falling into that category.
“If they’re going to charge tax to our countries — if as an example, we sell a car into Japan and they do things to us that make it impossible to sell cars in Japan . . . it’s not fair,” he said in a meeting with business leaders.
In a related move, Trump on Tuesday urged the chief executives of the Big Three U.S. automakers to build more cars in the United States.
In return, the Republican president promised to cut regulations and taxes to make it more attractive for businesses to operate in the country.