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Toyota Launches Highlander Production in Indiana - VIDEO ENHANCED

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SUV is Toyota's 12th North American-built model

SEE ALSO: Toyota Buyers Guide

PRINCETON, IN - October 9, 2009: Production of the Highlander sport utility vehicle, Toyota's 12th North American-built model, began yesterday at the company's plant in Princeton, Indiana. The $450 million investment is part of the adjustments Toyota began last year in order to better utilize manufacturing capacity.

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Production of the Tundra pickup, originally in Indiana, was consolidated last fall in the Tundra plant in Texas. Since then Toyota Motor Manufacturing, Indiana (TMMI), which also builds the Sienna and Sequoia, has been preparing for the Highlander.

"Highlander production gives us better use of our capacity and demonstrates our continued commitment to the U.S. and the state of Indiana," said Wil James, TMMI senior vice president.

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TMMI reacted to several months of slow production by retaining all of its 4,200 team members, who were further trained and improved manufacturing processes.

"The result is long-term sustainability of this factory, which is important to our customers, team members, suppliers and the local community," James said.

TMMI now represents a $3.7 billion investment. The addition of Highlander boosts production at other Toyota plants such as West Virginia, where the 6-cylinder engine is made, and at nearly 250 of Toyota's North American suppliers.

In Indiana alone, Highlander parts and components including items such as steel, brake parts and interior component assemblies will be provided by about 30 Tier 1 suppliers.

Since it was introduced in 2001, more than 1 million Highlanders have been sold in the U.S. The Highlander is available in Base, Sport and Limited grades in both two-wheel and full-time four-wheel-drive models. Features include: hill assist, Smart Key, flexible second row seating and a separate glass hatch.

Toyota currently produces 12 vehicles in North America, including the Avalon, Camry, Corolla, Highlander, Matrix, RAV4, Sienna, Sequoia, Tacoma, Tundra, Venza and the Lexus RX 350.