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Toyota Moving Tacoma Production To Texas Plant

Automaker will end Tacoma production at the Freemont, Calif., plant it shared with General Motors in March and begin producing the compact truck in San Antonio by next summer.

SAN ANTONIO (AP) -- Toyota's decision to move its compact truck production here should get the San Antonio plant closer to full capacity by next summer, adding jobs and helping to offset sluggish demand for full-size models.

The plant, which opened in 2006, currently produces Toyota Motor Corp.'s Tundra, but the company has had to furlough workers and cut back to one shift as demand got hammered by high gas prices and then the recession.

On Thursday, Toyota said it will move compact Tacoma production to San Antonio after it ends production next spring at a plant shared with General Motors Corp. in Fremont, Calif. Tacoma production should begin in San Antonio next summer, said Toyota manufacturing spokesman Jim Wiseman on Friday.

He said it's not clear how many jobs will be added to the 1,800 workers Toyota already employs here, but local officials estimate it could bring 750 to 1,000 new jobs. Wiseman said most of the Tacoma workers will be local hires.

Existing Tundra workers will have to undergo additional training because both trucks will come off the same assembly line, Wiseman said.

The move will help shore up the 21 onsite suppliers that have struggled with the decline in Tundra production. Wiseman said those suppliers should be able to meet most, if not all, of the company's Tacoma needs.

Toyota announced it would move production out of the California plant after GM said it would end production there. It's the first time Toyota has ever shut down a plant.

"It's obviously mixed feelings for us. It's a hard blow for the people who were working at that plant in California," said Wiseman. "It was just not economically feasible for us."

San Antonio officials said they were not so much joyous as relieved that Toyota decided to add production here. The compact truck line provides balance as the economy and fuel costs fluctuate, said Bexar County Judge Nelson Wolff.

Richard Perez, the president of chamber of commerce, said the announcement was also an indication that the community was smart to offer tax incentives and infrastructure help to build the original plant.

"It's a clear indication that we invested wisely as a community," he said.

Wolff said local and state officials offered some additional tax breaks including phase-ins for job trainees on the Tacoma line, but the breaks were not any bigger than typically offered for large employment gains.

Toyota did not ask for the breaks, he said, but officials worried that San Antonio could be passed over for facilities in Mexico or elsewhere.

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