With a rising yen and forecasted sales of 200,000 units, Toyota is looking to kick Prius production into high gear on North American shores.
The challenge for Toyota appears to be sourcing all the components needed to build hybrid drivetrains in the United States. According to Automotive News
“Toyota already is scouting suppliers capable of delivering inverters, electric motors and batteries from the United States in anticipation of the move, said Koei Saga, senior managing officer in charge of drivetrain r&d at Toyota.”
Currently, most of those parts have to come from Japan or South Korea. Initially, they may have to be imported to the future North American Prius plant, but the goal is for a local supply base. Toyota currently builds the Camry Hybrid stateside, but with imported components. Aside from cost factors, a big advantage of a local parts base is for the sake of “resiliency” – any natural disasters in Japan would not affect inventories like the 2011 tsunami/earthquakes did.
Also of note is the North American emphasis on lithium-ion equipped versions of the Prius. While only the plug-in uses a lithium-ion battery, (and base versions will continue to use a Nickel-metal unit), this would suggest that Stateside production would focus on more advanced versions of the Prius, or more plug-in versions. Presumably, the Prius c and “base” versions of the standard car would continue with the less advanced battery.