This past week Toyota announced that it will begin producing its Lexus luxury car in the United States for the first time. The company will invest over $500 million to move production of the Lexus ES 350 luxury sedan to its existing plant in Georgetown, Kentucky. Until now the plant in Kentucky, Toyota’s oldest and largest in the United States, produced the flagship Toyota Camry, as well as the Avalon and Venza. The Lexus ES 350 shares underpinnings with the Camry and Avalon, making the transition somewhat easier. This aspect is just one of several strategic implications of the move of Lexus production to the United States.
While it’s parent is fully Japanese, Lexus is an American child, for many years the luxury car was available only in the United States. This focus on the American market led Lexus to the top of luxury car sales every year from 2000 to 2010. In recent years, however, Toyota has watched BMW and Mercedes Benz pass it in luxury car sales and showing little evidence of slowing down. In my opinion this factor played a role in Toyota finally deciding to move the production of Lexus to the United States. As the president of Toyota, Akio Toyoda, said, the company plans to “give regions greater autonomy to make the products their customers want.” By moving the production of the ES 350 to the United States, I believe Toyota will be able to more closely monitor how Lexus is doing compared to BMW and Mercedes Benz. The company can also make production changes more effectively and efficiently at its plant in Kentucky. This high involvement with its target consumers should aid Lexus as it tries to regain its spot as the top luxury car in the United States. The move of production also helps protect Toyota from the Japanese economy and possible disastrous production issues.
From an operations management viewpoint, I think that Toyota is much better off by moving the production of the Lexus to the United States. The ES 300 is essentially an American car, it is not nearly as popular in Japan as it is in the US, therefore it made little sense to have it produced half a world away from where it was being sold. There are no economic benefits since there is an exchange rate penalty for Japanese automakers. Additionally, the 2011 earthquake and tsunami in Japan had devastating effects on production. This disaster revealed just how vulnerable Toyota and other Japanese automakers are, and in my opinion, played a key role in Toyota moving the production of Lexus to the United States. By having all of it’s operations and production in one place, Toyota can become more efficient and continue being a leading automaker.
Do you think it was a good decision by Toyota to move the production of Lexus to the United States?
Will this lead other foreign carmakers to move to America and what affect will that have on the production of American cars?