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Toyota latest automaker to seek Mexico manufacturing site

The Toyota Motor Corp. logo is displayed on

The Toyota Motor Corp. logo is displayed on the back of a Crown Royal sedan at a company showroom in Tokyo on Nov. 5, 2013. Credit: Bloomberg News

Toyota Motor Corp., the last of the world’s major automakers without a full assembly plant in Mexico, is scouting the country for possible factory sites, two people with direct knowledge of the matter said.

The search spans several states, said the sources, who asked not to be identified because the details aren’t public. Company executives met this week with Mexican federal officials for preliminary talks about adding a plant in the country, said one of the people.

Mexico is attracting foreign auto producers because of low labor costs and favorable trade accords. While Toyota’s lack of a high-volume Mexico plant makes the world’s largest automaker an outlier among its peers, three $1 billion factories have been announced just since June, for Kia Motors Corp., Bayerische Motoren Werke AG and a Daimler AG-Nissan Motor Co. venture.

The size and timing of a new plant for Toyota City, Japan-based Toyota have yet to be decided, one of the people said.

“We are always evaluating opportunities in North America in line with market demand, but no decisions have been made,” Toyota spokeswoman Tania Saldana, said Wednesday by email, without elaborating.

Messages left for comment Wednesday with a spokeswoman for Mexico’s Economy Ministry weren’t immediately returned.

A Toyota plant would add to investments in Mexico that the government says include $10 billion of factories announced or opened since President Enrique Pena Nieto took office in December 2012. Auto output should reach a record 3.2 million in 2014, the Mexican Automobile Industry Association projects.

“Practically all companies are now in Mexico,” association director general Fausto Cuevas said at a Sept. 8 news conference. “Mexico has shown it’s an excellent maker of vehicles, auto parts and components.”

Toyota now has a Mexico toehold. Mazda Motor Corp., whose Guanajuato plant cranked out its first car in January, will eventually build 50,000 Toyotas a year. Toyota also runs a small Tacoma pickup factory near Tijuana that doesn’t make vehicles from scratch and isn’t considered a full assembly plant.

Neither operation is on the scale of Kia’s announcement last month for a $1 billion factory to produce 300,000 cars annually, or the Daimler-Nissan commitment in June to build a joint $1.29 billion plant to assemble as many as 300,000 Mercedes-Benz and Infiniti compact cars.

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