Automotive history was made in Canada Sept. 26, as Toyota Motor Manufacturing Canada Inc. (TMMC) became the first automobile plant outside of Japan to manufacture the luxury brand of Lexus vehicles.
The first Canadian-built Lexus RX 330, the luxury sport utility vehicle (SUV) now in its second generation, rolled off a dedicated Lexus line at the plant in view of TMMC team members, as well as Toyota executives from around the globe, and government dignitaries.
"This is a great day for all of us here in Cambridge," said a jubilant TMMC President Ray Tanguay. "We have been working for more than three years to realize this dream."
Toyota invested CAD$650 million in upgrades and new construction for Lexus production. Lexus has a separate manufacturing area at the plant, which includes a new state-of-the-art paint shop using waterborne cartridge paint technology, and a new state-of-the-art welding shop. "The Lexus Project has been an immense undertaking and a humbling honor," said Tanguay.
The RX 330 is also manufactured at Toyota Motor Kyushu Inc. in Japan. Since 2000, Canadian and Japanese Lexus team members have traveled back and forth between the two plants to prepare for manufacturing at the levels of luxury and quality Lexus customers expect. "We found that a strong skillset is very important, but the key difference is the mindset," added Tanguay. "A Lexus frame of mind seeks perfection in every process, on every manufacturing line, and in every vehicle. Manufacturing Lexus demands a deep understanding of what customers want, expect and deserve in a luxury vehicle. We call it the relentless pursuit of perfection."
Hiroshi Kawakami, a managing officer of Toyota Motor Corp., expressed Toyota's confidence in its Canadian facility and its strong tradition of quality. "Our company's philosophy is to manufacture vehicles where they are sold," Kawakami said. "Since TMMC is one of the jewels in our crown overseas, beginning Lexus production here is certainly in keeping with that philosophy."
The Lexus brand, introduced in 1990, was originally designed for the North American market, but has since been introduced to markets outside of North America as well.
"Lexus is a success story because there is no compromise in its manufacture, as it always reflects the voice of the customer," said Toyota Motor Manufacturing North America President & CEO Atsushi Niimi, who, along with being a managing officer of Toyota Motor Corp. is also TMMC's chairman. "I know TMMC has worked passionately to prepare for this pursuit of automotive perfection."
"Since 1988, customers have enjoyed the high quality vehicles manufactured here at TMMC," said Toyota Canada President Kenji Tomikawa, who is in charge of sales and marketing of all Toyota and Lexus vehicles in Canada. "I know the Lexus luxury brand, now manufactured by Canadians, will be equally well-received. The RX 330 quickly became our best-selling Lexus when introduced five years ago, revolutionizing the way we perceive luxury vehicles."
Canadian and American Lexus marketing and distribution divisions are also eager to have a larger and closer supply of the RX, which revolutionized the luxury SUV market five years ago when first introduced as the Lexus RX 300. As the first car-based luxury SUV, the RX 330 created a new market niche and Lexus has never looked back.
Toyota Motor Manufacturing Canada Inc. has been manufacturing vehicles at its Cambridge, Ontario plant since November 30, 1988. Investment has totaled CAD$3 billion since the company began. In addition to the CAD$650 million Lexus investment, 700 additional Canadians were hired to work at TMMC, where employment has now grown to total more than 3,900 people. Capacity has grown from 50,000 units annually in 1988 to 250,000 today.
TMMC has received seven J.D. Power and Associates plant quality awards, including four gold. Additionally, automotive journalists three times voted the TMMC-built Corolla as "Best Vehicle Built in Canada."