On November 11, 2021, Toyota announced it would invest $240 million into its Buffalo, West Virginia manufacturing plant to add a dedicated production line of hybrid transaxles. Just 4 months later in February 2022, Toyota announced an additional $73 million investment, citing the increasing demand for electric vehicles. Including an additional investment of $210 million from February 2021, this means Toyota has invested over half a billion dollars in its West Virginia plant in a 12-month span.
The Japanese automaker has historically been a great partner to West Virginia, having invested over $1.8 billion total into its West Virginia site and employing over 2,000 West Virginians. From 2003 to 2018, Japanese greenfield projects invested $1.4 billion in West Virginia and created 3,779 jobs. Toyota’s increased investment in West Virginia since 2018 means it is by far the single largest Japanese investor in the state.
The reason for Toyota’s increasing investment is its shift to producing electric vehicles, and the goal of having an electric option for its entire lineup of cars by 2025. Toyota Motor Manufacturing West Virginia, Inc. (TMMWV) is now the only manufacturing plant in North America to produce hybrid transaxles, which are a critical component of hybrid vehicles that run on both gas and electricity. In addition, the plant will begin assembling an estimated 120,000 rear motor stators per year, a key component in electric motors. Thus, Toyota is bringing critical supply chains closer to the United States with this move.
In response to the investment, West Virginia Senator Shelley Moore Capito noted “West Virginia has a long and productive relationship with Toyota. [Toyota’s investment] shows the company’s continued commitment to investing in our state and our workers. Not only is this investment great news for West Virginia and the hardworking individuals at the Buffalo facility, but it will also help advance the company’s production and fuel our economy.”
TMMWV has not only given back to the local community with jobs and economic growth, however. Toyota has also donated $10 million to local non-profit groups since it opened in 1996. Along with the previously mentioned investments, Toyota announced it would be powered by a Black Rock wind farm in the mountains to the east. Toyota has also given grants to subsidize middle school computer science programs in the state. Thus, Toyota has become more than an economic boon to West Virginia – it has become a staple of the local community, a shining example of how the United States and Japan matter for each other.
Kimery Lynch is a Projects Coordinator at the East-West Center in Washington. She recently graduated from the University of Hawai'i-Mānoa with her MA in Asian Studies.