May 31, 2023 - Economy

Toyota to build family-friendly electric SUV in Kentucky

Aerial photograph of Toyota's North Carolina battery factory, currently under construction

Toyota's battery factory under construction in Liberty, N.C. Photo courtesy of Toyota

Toyota will assemble a new, large electric SUV in Kentucky, the company announced Wednesday.

  • It will also invest an additional $2.1 billion to support the future expansion of a battery factory it's building in North Carolina, on top of the $3.8 billion it's already spending.

Details: Toyota's new electric SUV will be a three-row model built at its flagship Georgetown, Ky. plant starting in 2025.

  • The North Carolina facility, meanwhile, will make batteries for both hybrid and fully electric vehicles.

Why it matters: The yet-unnamed SUV, in the heart of the family segment, is a sign that the famously cautious Japanese automaker recognizes that a shift toward electric vehicles (EVs) is underway in the U.S.

Yes, but: Toyota will continue its "portfolio approach" to electrification, offering a mix of hybrids, plug-in hybrids, hydrogen fuel cells and pure EVs for the foreseeable future.

  • "We believe there's going to be a gradual approach to electrification," Sean Suggs, who oversees the North Carolina battery plant, told reporters.

Between the lines: A shortage of raw materials for batteries is one reason Toyota is sticking with its unique approach to what it calls "electrified vehicles," Suggs said.

  • With the battery minerals needed to produce one EV, the company can produce 90 hybrids, he explained.
  • "That's why it's really important that we have a portfolio approach to make sure the customer has choices. We believe that approach will work until North America can catch up from an infrastructure perspective and also raw materials."

Be smart: Battery manufacturers get a tax credit of $35 per kilowatt-hour for each U.S.-made cell, which slices their production costs by a third.

The bottom line: Toyota has more than 23 million hybrids, plug-in hybrids, fuel cells and EVs on the road worldwide — more than all other automakers combined.

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