Toyota Reminds Kentucky Plant That It’d Be Cheaper to Make the Camry in Japan

‘I’m not sharing this to scare you, but to heighten your awareness of the current risk we now have,’ said plant manager Wil James.

byChris Tsui|
Toyota News photo

Toyota plant employees in Georgetown, Kentucky responsible for putting the Camry together were on the receiving end of some troubling words from the Japanese auto giant. In a two-and-a-half minute long internal clip obtained by Bloomberg, plant president Wil James gave his workers a friendly reminder that it would be cheaper for Toyota to build the top-selling midsizer in Japan and ship it to America rather than build it stateside, as it's doing now. 

"I’m not sharing this to scare you, but to heighten your awareness of the current risk we now have," said James. He goes on to say that Toyota plans to keep the Kentucky facility open and running for the next three decades, "but all of this is on the assumption that we can make as much progress in cost reduction and efficiency as we’ve made in quality and safety." In other words: cut costs or die.

The ultimatum comes as Toyota tightens its belt in order to shuffle more of its resources towards research and development, specifically, in the areas of electrification and artificial intelligence. Bloomberg reports that Toyota CEO Akio Toyoda has assembled a "cost-saving task force" made up of four executive VPs (think of them like the Avengers, but really frugal) saddled with the initiative of making sure any new ventures are financed by cuts to other departments.

Earlier this year, Toyota invested more than $1.3 billion and added 700 jobs to Kentucky in the wake of the redesigned Camry and its TNGA (Toyota New Global Architecture) platform, a move President Trump subsequently took credit for, despite it being in the works since the year he crowned Leeza Gibbons as the winner of Celebrity Apprentice.

As the second-largest automotive factory in the U.S., and Toyota's biggest in the world, the Kentucky plant employs more than 9,500 permanent and temporary employees. It's the city of Georgetown's anchor employer, employing more Georgetownians than anywhere else by an extremely wide margin.