Toyota Motor Manufacturing Canada Inc. will hire more than 800 workers and add a second shift of production at its plant in Woodstock, Ont., providing another shot in the arm for the Ontario economy and another sign that a recovery in the battered auto sector is under way.
The plant will double production of RAV4 crossover utility vehicles to 150,000 a year beginning in March amid a rebound in demand for the vehicles in the U.S. market, which is the destination for about 80 per cent of the factory's output.
The auto maker will announce the plan Thursday, a year and five days after the Woodstock facility officially opened as the North American industry was sliding into the most crippling downturn it has experienced since the Great Depression of the 1930s.
The original plan was to start with two shifts of production when the plant opened, but it began production on just a single shift because of the crisis.
But RAV4 is one of only two vehicles in Toyota's portfolio in the U.S. market that has posted a sales gain this year - up 3 per cent to 132,346 in the first 11 months of the year, compared with 128,225 in the same period last year. November sales rose 35 per cent.
Those numbers compare with an overall Toyota sales slide of 23 per cent in the U.S. market from January to November and an 11 per cent rise in November itself.
It's the second most popular vehicle in the Toyota Canada Inc. lineup and sales in this market rose 24 per cent in the first 11 months and 31 per cent last month. Toyota Canada overall sales slid 13 per cent in the January-November period, but rose 26 per cent last month.
The production boost at Toyota follows a similar announcement by General Motors Co. at its Cami Automotive Inc. plant in Ingersoll, Ont., a short ride west along Highway 401 from Woodstock.
GM is increasing output of its Chevrolet Equinox and GMC Terrain crossovers - also because of high demand - and has recalled several hundred workers from layoff in order to get the plant cranking out the vehicles on three shifts a day.
The North American crisis, which contributed to the first financial loss in Toyota's history, has created a problem of excess production capacity for the world's largest auto maker, which expanding rapidly in North America until the recession.
A new plant in Mississippi that was scheduled to assemble the company's successful Prius hybrid car, is sitting empty.
A joint venture with GM in Fremont, Calif., will close after GM pulled out during its chapter 11 bankruptcy proceeding and Toyota decided to shut the facility.