Toyota to add 350 jobs, spend an extra $2.5B on EV battery plant at Greensboro-Randolph Megasite

August 31, 2022

Toyota is more than doubling its investment in the electric-vehicle battery plant planned for the Greensboro-Randolph Megasite and adding 20% more jobs than previously announced while saying even more growth may be yet to come.

Toyota said today it’s adding $2.5 billion and 350 jobs to the $1.29 billion investment and 1,750 jobs it announced last December. That will bring the total investment to $3.8 billion and the total number of jobs in the first phase of the project to approximately 2,100 jobs. The company is aiming to start production in 2025 at Toyota Battery Manufacturing, North Carolina, as the battery plant is called.

The investment adds capacity to support production for battery-electric vehicles, or BEVs. The plant will make batteries for both battery-electric and hybrid electric vehicles, known as HEVs, such as Toyota's well-known Prius.

“This plant will serve a central role in Toyota’s leadership toward a fully electrified future and will help us meet our goal of carbon neutrality in our vehicles and global operations by 2035,” said Norm Bafunno, senior vice president for Unit Manufacturing and Engineering at Toyota Motor North America.

“This is an exciting time for Toyota, the region and the many North Carolinians we will soon employ,” said TBMNC President Sean Suggs. “This incremental investment reflects our continued commitment to ensuring jobs and future economic growth for the Triad region.”

This is not the second phase of the plant that was mentioned as a possibility in the original site announcement, but Bafunno told the Triad Business Journal that more investment in the site is possible and even likely.

Instead, Toyota's decision is an incremental increase tied to clear indications of the demand for electrified vehicles, Bafunno told the Triad Business Journal.

“As we continue to watch the marketplace a little bit and we see that conversion going, we feel like we’ve got to get ready, and the time to do that is now.”

Expansion provides added flexibility
Nor is it a shift necessarily to toward all-battery electric models of cars and trucks. Toyota’s Prius was the first major-brand hybrid to gain wide acceptance, and Toyota has largely emphasized hybrids over all-battery since then, rolling out its first all-electric model, the bZ4X, only early this year.

The increase in capacity in North Carolina is still part of Toyota’s strategy of having a mix of hybrid gasoline-electric, plug-in hybrids, all-battery, and at some point fuel-cell electric vehicles for consumers to choose from.

“We think the portfolio approach is one that we still want to move forward with,” Bafunno said. “We still want to capture all of the audience in terms of the customer demand that's out there. We have to work very hard on things like reducing the costs of pure battery electric vehicles. And those are the things we're working on hard, but the other alternatives are out there today.

"We're very proud of those alternatives. They’re reliable, dependable and with very good customer response. So I wouldn't characterize this as a direct shift. I think it's adding more to the portfolio approach.”

Toyota's news follows recent federal legislation meant to stimulate domestic electric-vehicle production, California’s decision to ban the sale of most new internal-combustion engines in 2035, and industry forecasts of rapid growth in electric demand.

“We still think this is only the beginning. And we have a long and bright future," Bafunno said. "This is really to support the electrification activity that's under way for Toyota here in North America.”

He added: “We do anticipate more growth. But we look at this as incremental growth to get us ready for those customers in 2025.”

Site preparation on schedule
The employee headcount isn’t doubling because the investment expansion is tied to the shift to more all-electric production, however.

“These battery-electric batteries are larger; they have more capacity because that's going to be the single propulsion unit for the entire vehicle,” Bafunno said. “The footprint changes. As a result, so does the process equipment design as well as the building design.”

Site preparation is on schedule, Bafunno said.

“There's a lot of slope to that land, and we've got to level it out to get the buildings in the right spaces. And that's all on schedule right now. We feel good about it.”

Toyota has named local leadership led by Suggs and a human resources representative. It's looking to hire people with good communication skills, the ability to work as a team, and who want to learn, Bafunno said.

“The job security that we provide, the wages and benefits are going to be outstanding. But more than that, it's this teamwork and, you know, we're looking for people that can help us achieve something we've never done before, which is creating batteries and electrification, for the first time in North America. So it's kind of a neat, exciting future ahead for them.”

Like nearly all manufacturers, Toyota strategically is trying to simplify and localize its supply chains when possible. There’s nothing to announce locally now, but it’s the company’s general aim as it boosts electrification.

"Toyota's philosophy is one that says we want to build product where it's sold, and you can see that with the configuration of the product and plants that we have here in the U.S. and North America," Bafunno said. "And we're going to continue that same thing with electrification. …

"We have a whole team of our Purchasing Group in North America that is looking at supply chain configurations, both for raw materials and also for refining. But it's very strategic and very important that we expand it right here in this region. And we're working toward that.”

Toyota has opened an email address for any businesses interested in potentially becoming suppliers for TBMNC, including any business from cleaning services to lawn maintenance to security services. The address is:

Source: Triad Business Journal