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Toyota to produce luxury Lexus model at Ky. plant

Apr. 18, 2013 @ 11:40 PM

FRANKFORT, Ky. -- Toyota is preparing to announce a decision to produce a luxury Lexus model in Kentucky, a move that would create an additional 750 jobs, pushing employment at its Georgetown plant past 6,700 workers.

The automaker has scheduled simultaneous news conferences for Friday morning at the Georgetown factory and in New York to announce the plan.

Speakers at the New York event include Toyota Motor Corp. President Akio Toyoda, the company's top executive, and Jim Lentz, CEO of the North American region.

The company also plans to hold a marketing event Friday night in New York for its Lexus luxury brand, fueling speculation that it plans to transfer production of a Lexus model from Japan to Kentucky.

Government officials who have been briefed by Toyota executives confirmed the carmaker's decision to produce the Lexus in Kentucky. The officials spoke on the condition of anonymity because Toyota wanted to wait until the Friday event to announce the decision.

In an interview with The Associated Press last month, Lentz said Toyota studies sales trends for each particular model series and will add North American factory capacity when necessary.

"If we get to a point where we're forecasting greater demand than there is capacity, depending on what series it might be in, we would raise our hand to build that increased capacity here in North America," he said.

The Lexus ES series fits that description. Sales of the midsize luxury cars, which are offered in conventional and gas-electric hybrid versions, have nearly doubled so far this year compared with 2012. Last year, ES sales rose 37 percent. Toyota sold just over 56,000 ES models in the U.S. last year, about the amount that the addition to the Kentucky plant will be able to produce.