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Toyota investment at Liberty plant climbs to $13.9B

This goes with the 2021 announcement by Toyota in partnership with Toyota Tsusho of a $1.29 billion outlay for battery production and creation of 1,750 jobs; and an announcement in June of an additional $2.1 billion investment.

Published: October 31, 2023 6:42pm

Investment by Toyota in a Randolph County plant a little more than 20 miles from downtown Greensboro has risen to $13.9 billion.

The automaker, with international headquarters in Japan and American operations based in Plano, Texas, said Tuesday a nearly $8 billion investment at the Toyota Battery Manufacturing North Carolina facility in Liberty should add 3,000 jobs.

This goes with the 2021 announcement by Toyota in partnership with Toyota Tsusho of a $1.29 billion outlay for battery production and creation of 1,750 jobs; and an announcement in June of an additional $2.1 billion investment.

In a release, Toyota North Carolina President Sean Suggs said, “Today’s announcement reinforces Toyota’s commitment to electrification and carbon reduction, bringing jobs and future economic growth to the region. We are excited to see the continued energy and support of this innovative manufacturing facility.”

Toyota North Carolina, in the release, bills itself as the “epicenter of lithium-ion battery production in North America.” The facility is 7 million square feet, the rough equivalent of “121 football fields of battery production.”

Taxpayer subsidies were not included in the announcement by the state offices of the Department of Commerce or the governor, or by Toyota. Gov. Roy Cooper took credit, saying his visit to Tokyo just over two weeks ago strengthened the partnership of the state and the company “culminating in this historic announcement.”

Cooper, like many Democrats nationwide, has pushed a green agenda including goals for electric vehicles on North Carolina roads. Residents haven’t bought in on his quest to have 1.25 million zero-emissions electric vehicles by 2030, and to achieve a 50% vehicle sales share of the same for light-duty vehicles by the same deadline.

Through August, total electric vehicle registrations in the state were at 75,000, with about 55,000 electric and 20,000 plug-in hybrids. Nearly 18,000 electric vehicles were added in the first seven months this year. In context, the state needs to add zero-emissions vehicles at a rate of about 14,000-plus each month to reach Cooper’s goal.

North Carolinians have more than 8 million gas or diesel vehicles registered.

Still, the state has had notable developments in the industry and its components this year.

• A Kings Mountain lithium mine will reopen. It has been shuttered since 1988 and is estimated capable of supporting the production of 1.2 million electric vehicles annually for 30 years. Charlotte-based Albemarle, the world’s largest producer of lithium, received a $90 million grant from the Department of Defense to expand domestic production of the raw mineral used to manufacture electric vehicle batteries. The grant followed a $149.7 million grant Albemarle received from the Biden Administration last year for a North Carolina processing facility.

• Duke Energy announced a 12-month EV Complete Home Charging Plan pilot program for residential customers that will offer 800 kilowatt-hours per month to charge EVs at home for a fixed monthly fee. The cost for customers in the Duke Energy Carolinas service area is $19.99, while it's $24.99 for Duke Energy Progress customers.

• House of Representatives Democrats in March offered legislation to amend the state residential, energy and electrical codes to require all new one- and two-family dwellings to include at least one electric vehicle-ready parking space. The bill was parked in the rules committee.

Toyota’s updates contrast to competitor VinFast, which is also building in the Piedmont Triad and got the largest taxpayer subsidy in state history. The subsidy is worth $316.1 million over 32 years to develop an assembly and battery plant at the Triangle Innovation Point megasite in Chatham County. The state is also expected to contribute up to $450 million for site preparations as part of the deal. Reviews for its vehicles have not been good, and its earnings report in the third quarter abysmal.

In the Toyota release, state Senate President Pro Tempore Phil Berger said, “The additional jobs and increased capital investment are proof that the Triad and our rural communities are prepared to support high-tech manufacturing.”

The state was fourth in this month’s census numbers showing state to state migration, behind only Florida, California and Texas. In July left-leaning CNBC for the second year in a row named North Carolina No. 1 in the network’s America’s Top States for Business analysis – the latest in a slew of awards the state has gotten for its tax friendly business climate.

In his interview with CNBC, Cooper took opportunity to bash Republican legislation and say, “We’re in a state of emergency here. If we take the steps we need to take, North Carolina can continue on its success in education, and quality workforce. If we don’t, we’re going to have some problems in the future.”

In the Toyota release, state House Speaker Tim Moore said, “Toyota’s success is a prime example of how a balanced budget, a strong workforce, and a AAA credit rating pave the way for business growth. Toyota’s additional investment in North Carolina is a sign that we are on the right track.”

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