Toyota Highlander plant gets $1.4B to build a new EV and battery packs

A week after a CarBuzz report that Toyota planned to expand PHEV availability in the U.S. market and possibly offer an electric Toyota Highlander in the near future, Automotive News reports Toyota’s pledged $1.4 billion to the Princeton, Indiana plant that builds the current Highlander, Grand Highlander, Sienna minivan, and Lexus TX that’s the luxury arm’s version of the Grand Highlander. The money will pay for three items at Toyota Motor Manufacturing Indiana (TMMI), the first being the assembly of “an EV on the line that now builds the Sienna and Highlander” beginning in 2026. A Toyota executive told the outlet that the EV in question would be “chassis-based,” excluding the use of a skateboard architecture.

The second thing the money pays for is a battery pack assembly line. Cells will come from Toyota Battery Manufacturing North Carolina (TBNMC), a joint venture with Toyota’s longtime partner Panasonic, expected to begin production in 2025. 

A Toyota rep told AN that there’d be no change to the vehicle nameplates coming out of TMMI for the moment, and the new vehicle doesn’t require raising the capacity of the line it will be built on. The automaker says production capacity at TMMI is more than 420,000 vehicles per year. None of this confirms an electric Highlander on the market sometime around the 2026 model year, but it rules out anything from the new generation of EVs Toyota’s been teasing and hinting at for a few years now. If and when the electric Highlander appears, it is expected to be followed by a Lexus TZ, the automaker already having applied to trademark TZ450e and TZ550e.

The third line item in the budget is 340 new employees for TMMI, adding to the more than 7,500 workers on the job there.

Whatever is coming out of Indiana is separate from the new electric vehicle Toyota’s going to build at its Georgetown, Kentucky, plant (TMMK). AN says that vehicle will be called the bZ5X, a three-row EV SUV smaller than the three-row EV SUV disgorged from TMMI. This plant will also build its own packs, but the cells for these packs are reportedly coming from a new plant LG Energy Systems is building in Holland, Michigan. Toyota recently contributed $3 billion to expand that facility to secure 250 gigawatt-hours’ worth of cells annually, said to be enough for about 250,000 EVs. That facility is also due online in 2025.

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