Toyota sold 236,659 Prii (all kinds) in the U.S. alone in 2012, all of them imported from high-yen Japan. This is a major drag on the car’s profitability. Long import routes are a hindrance, offshore production also tends to impact the granularity of options and trims. U.S. production of the Prius was expected for last year, it did not happen. Yesterday, Shigeki Terashi, head of Toyota Motor North America Inc. came as close to announcing as possible that Toyota plans to produce the Prius in North America. He didn’t really say it, and you needed to be Japanese to hear it.
After the Nikkei [sub] asked Terashi whether he would move Prius production to N.A., he answered that Toyota intends to “make cars where they are popular.” The Nikkei takes it that the “comment suggests the firm is looking to gain a cost edge over rivals.” This could be just for local assembly, with the powertrain coming from Japan, however, “the North American unit will also consider locally manufacturing key components for hybrids, such as batteries and motors,” Terashi told The Nikkei.