Toyota is investing $1.3 billion in its Kentucky factory to prepare for future electrification, including the production of a three-row electric SUV for the US market. This announcement comes as a surprise, given Toyota’s historically hostile stance toward the industry-wide shift to electric vehicles. The company says the funds will support an EV assembly line at its Kentucky plant and battery pack assembly with EV batteries supplied by its North Carolina facility, in part of the company’s total $17 billion investment in its US operations to facilitate the transition to EVs.
Although Toyota was an early leader in electrification with the popularity of the Prius, it has since fallen behind its competitors and only offers two battery-electric vehicles in the US. The news of the investment has led some environmentalists to feel skeptical, given Toyota’s previous anti-EV lobbying efforts. The recent debate over EV demand in the US has provided Toyota with an opportunity to emphasize its strategy of prioritizing hybrids over pure battery-electric vehicles, with Toyota’s chairman Akio Toyoda emphasizing that there are multiple paths to achieving carbon neutrality.
The three-row SUV that Toyota plans to produce in Kentucky could be based on the electric Land Cruiser concept showcased at the 2023 Japan Mobility Show. The concept featured an angular appearance with unique design elements, and if it comes to market, it would represent a significant step forward for Toyota’s electric vehicle offerings in the US market.