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Auto blogThu, 09 Jan 2014 14:03:00 EST
The ES is Lexus' top-selling sedan, but the Japanese luxury marque has never manufactured it outside of Japan. In fact, Lexus has never made any cars in the United States, one of its largest markets worldwide. But that's about to change.
Yesterday, construction began in Georgetown, Kentucky, on the first Lexus assembly line in America, the first concrete (or steel) step in a $360-million expansion of Toyota's plant in the Bluegrass state that will create 750 new jobs. The expansion was announced last April by chief executive Akio Toyoda at the New York Auto Show.
Once the new assembly line gets online in the fall of next year, Toyota plans on building some 50,000 units of the ES each year. Lexus sold a record 72,581 examples of the ES in the United States last year - 30 percent more than the previous year - so Lexus will either have to import some more from overseas or leave some buyers disappointed.
Toyota has announced a voluntary recall of 11,200 Scion iQ models from the 2012 and 2013 model years. According to the manufacturer, the problem with these pint-sized hatchbacks concerns the front passenger Occupant Classification System (OCS) weight sensor cables.
The OCS sensors in the front passenger seat control the operation of things like the airbags and seatbelt pre-tensioner. In these affected models, the cables for these sensors located in the seat track can become damaged as the passenger seat slides forward and backward. And if the cables are damaged, the airbags and seatbelt pre-tensioner may not function properly.
No injuries or crashes have been reported in conjunction with this issue.
The 2011 earthquake and tsunami that struck Japan took quite the toll on the automotive industry in that nation. Not content to lean on that tragedy as excuse for slagging sales, the Japanese automakers are planning on a major production expansion in North America. The aim is to reclaim the market share lost from the Tsunami-based dip, and overcome a dollar/yen exchange rate that makes exporting to America unprofitable.
Following the Tsunami, Japanese automakers ramped up production in their North American facilities to compensate, but according to Automotive News, Nissan, Honda and others have all reported plans for still-further increased production in the year ahead. As part of this ramp-up, Mazda will open a facility in Salamnca, Mexico before March of 2014. Part of that increase in output is 50,000 units of a Toyota-badged compact car, which Mazda will produce.
Other Mexican production facilities opening include a Honda plant, which will open in Spring 2014 in Celaya, and a Nissan plant, set to open later this year in Aguascalientes. Nissan also said that it will need another plant in North America within the next five years. According to Nissan Boss Carlos Ghosn, the company aims to raise its stake in the US market from 8 percent to 10, and adding production will help achieve that goal. Even Mitsubishi is aiming to boost production at its Normal, Illinois plant. Production of the Outlander Sport is currently at 50,000, which Mitsubishi wants to raise to 70,000.