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Location Notebook: Big Manufacturing Investments Keep Kentucky’s Automotive Industry Rolling Along

Kentucky is a powerful force in the U.S. auto industry. Major automakers have been building vehicles in the state for generations.

Q3 2017
The 2018 Camry will set the benchmark in the mid-size sedan segment. It is the first vehicle in North America designed and manufactured with Toyota New Global Architecture (TNGA), a completely new strategy to the way the company designs, engineers, and manufactures its vehicles. TNGA will improve performance of all models, including increased fuel efficiency, more responsive handling, and a more stable, comfortable feel while driving.
The 2018 Camry will set the benchmark in the mid-size sedan segment. It is the first vehicle in North America designed and manufactured with Toyota New Global Architecture (TNGA), a completely new strategy to the way the company designs, engineers, and manufactures its vehicles. TNGA will improve performance of all models, including increased fuel efficiency, more responsive handling, and a more stable, comfortable feel while driving.
Editor's Note: This article was written by one of Area Development’s staff editors on behalf of the Kentucky Cabinet for Economic Development, which approved this posting. According to Kentucky’s Governor, the state continues to “work toward widespread recognition as an engineering and manufacturing hub of excellence in North America.”


Automotive manufacturing continues to thrive in the Bluegrass State, supported by an ever-expanding supply chain. Hundreds of auto suppliers make just about every conceivable part, ranging from bumpers to engine components to windshields to frames.

Kentucky is home to 513 auto-related facilities that employ over 100,000 workers. It is currently the number-one producer of light vehicles per capita in the United States. In April 2017, Kentucky ranked second in production among the 50 states. The state is on pace to produce an estimated at 1.3 million vehicles in 2017. By volume, the top three vehicles produced in Kentucky are the Toyota Camry, the Ford Escape, and Ford F-series Super Duty. Kentucky’s automotive industry exported nearly $5.44 billion in products throughout 2016 with parts, bodies, trailers, and whole vehicles combined.
The 2017 Super Duty pickup is the first of a new generation being built at the Kentucky Truck Plant (KTP) in Louisville that uses an aluminum alloy body. The facility, one of two Ford assembly plants in Kentucky, also produces the Ford Expedition and Lincoln Navigator SUVs, which are switching to aluminum bodies for their 2018 models. Ford invested $1.3 billion into KTP and created 2,000 new jobs to prepare for production of the new model trucks and SUVs.
The 2017 Super Duty pickup is the first of a new generation being built at the Kentucky Truck Plant (KTP) in Louisville that uses an aluminum alloy body. The facility, one of two Ford assembly plants in Kentucky, also produces the Ford Expedition and Lincoln Navigator SUVs, which are switching to aluminum bodies for their 2018 models. Ford invested $1.3 billion into KTP and created 2,000 new jobs to prepare for production of the new model trucks and SUVs.
Since 2010, Kentucky’s automotive industry has announced over $8.7 billion in investments, resulting in nearly 30,000 new jobs — representing about one third of all new investment and new jobs in the state. In fact, the automotive industry is a key driver behind Kentucky’s record-breaking corporate investment so far this year. In the first half of 2017, companies pledged more than $6.76 billion in new-facility investments and expansion projects — shattering the previous all-time, full-year record of $5.1 billion set in 2015. This stream of investment announcements has put Kentucky on pace this year to create the greatest number of new jobs in a decade.

Kentucky’s Automotive Industry Thrives

Ford, GM, and Toyota — along with many automotive supplier firms — continue to invest in Kentucky.
  1. Ford Motor Company

    Louisville, KY

    Ford Motor Company produces the Ford Escape and the Lincoln MKC at its Louisville Assembly Plant (LAP). The Kentucky Truck Plant (KTP), also in Louisville, produces the Expedition, Lincoln Navigator, and F-Series Super Duty trucks.

  2. General Motors

    Bowling Green, KY

    For more than 35 years, General Motors has been making the Corvette exclusively in Bowling Green, Kentucky, where its Performance Build Center also specializes in hand-built, high-performance engines for the Corvette and Camaro.

  3. Toyota Motor

    Georgetown, KY

    Toyota Motor Manufacturing Kentucky (TMMK) rolled its first Camry off its Georgetown assembly line more than 25 years ago, producing more than 10 million Camrys since then.

A Solid Manufacturing Base
Kentucky is one of the top centers for advanced automotive manufacturing in the country, with four major assembly plants — Ford (two plants), General Motors, and Toyota.

Ford Motor Company produces the Ford Escape and the Lincoln MKC at its Louisville Assembly Plant (LAP), one of the company’s most flexible plants in the world. The Kentucky Truck Plant (KTP), also in Louisville, produces the Expedition, Lincoln Navigator, and F-Series Super Duty trucks. With the F-Series in such high demand, Ford continues to expand its production capacity and modernize its tooling process.

General Motors has been making the Corvette exclusively in Bowling Green, Kentucky, for more than 35 years. The GM facility also includes the Performance Build Center, which specializes in hand-built, high-performance engines for the Corvette and Camaro. Toyota Motor Manufacturing Kentucky (TMMK) rolled its first Camry off its Georgetown assembly line more than 25 years ago. Since then, Toyota has produced more than 10 million Camrys. Today, TMMK produces five different models in Georgetown, where its North American production engineering team is also located.

Automakers Continue to Invest in the Bluegrass State
Two major announcements from Ford Motor Company and Toyota Motor Manufacturing Kentucky in 2017 helped the state surpass its previous all-year, corporate investment record.
An employee at the General Motors Bowling Green Assembly Plant checks paint quality on a production line. The plant currently employs nearly 900 workers. In June 2016 GM announced a $290 million investment in the Bowling Green plant and an additional 270 new jobs to improve technology and processes.
An employee at the General Motors Bowling Green Assembly Plant checks paint quality on a production line. The plant currently employs nearly 900 workers. In June 2016 GM announced a $290 million investment in the Bowling Green plant and an additional 270 new jobs to improve technology and processes.
Ford Motor Company plans to invest $900 million in its Louisville Kentucky Truck Plant to produce the new Expedition and Lincoln Navigator SUV. This commitment follows a $1.3 billion investment announced by the company in 2015 to re-tool and modernize the facility, which added 2,000 new jobs, bringing the total workforce at the plant to nearly 8,000 employees.

“Large SUVs are attracting a new generation around the world and we’re finding new ways to deliver the capability, versatility, and technology that customers really want,” says Joe Hinrichs, executive vice president and president of Ford’s global operations.

Louisville Mayor Greg Fischer indicated this high level of investment reflects the company’s confidence in the abilities of the regional labor pool. “When you invest this kind of money, it means you believe in the workforce,” Fischer says.

In April Toyota Motor Manufacturing Kentucky announced its plans to invest $1.33 billion to upgrade its Georgetown facility. Called the “Reborn” project, this project will secure 8,200 jobs and modernize the facility to increase manufacturing flexibility and capacity. Over the next few years, TMMK will replace or refurbish equipment and add new technology in multiple manufacturing areas, including stamping, body weld, paint, plastics, assembly, and powertrain. A new paint shop will also be constructed and equipped with the latest technology and equipment.
Joe Hinrichs, Ford Motor Company executive vice president and president of Global Operations, poses with a 2017 Super Duty pickup, the first of a new generation being built at the Kentucky Truck Plant (KTP) in Louisville that use s an aluminum alloy body. The facility, one of two Ford assembly plants in Kentucky, also produces the Ford Expedition and Lincoln Navigator SUVs, which are switching to aluminum bodies for their 2018 models. Ford invested $1.3 billion into KTP and created 2,000 new jobs to prepare for production of the new-model trucks and SUVs.
Joe Hinrichs, Ford Motor Company executive vice president and president of Global Operations, poses with a 2017 Super Duty pickup, the first of a new generation being built at the Kentucky Truck Plant (KTP) in Louisville that use s an aluminum alloy body. The facility, one of two Ford assembly plants in Kentucky, also produces the Ford Expedition and Lincoln Navigator SUVs, which are switching to aluminum bodies for their 2018 models. Ford invested $1.3 billion into KTP and created 2,000 new jobs to prepare for production of the new-model trucks and SUVs.
These improvements are intended to prepare TMMK for the seamless integration of the Toyota’s “New Global Architecture” (TNGA), a new approach that will enhance innovation and efficient design, engineering, and manufacturing. This will streamline production processes and improve parts handling, logistics, vehicle safety, quality, and overall global competitiveness. The Georgetown plant will be the first North American facility to launch TNGA, starting with the 2018 Camry.

“This investment speaks directly to the quality of our people and our products, as well as the partnerships we’ve forged in the local community and across the state,” says Wil James, president of TMMK. “It will allow us to create a more flexible production environment, which will position our plant to compete globally for new models, build ever-better cars, and enable us to respond quicker and more capably to market demands down the road.”
Wil James, president of Toyota Motor Manufacturing Kentucky (TMMK), speaks as Ky. Gov. Matt Bevin, left, listens, during an April 10, 2017 announcement at the plant. During its $1.33 billion Reborn project, TMMK is receiving a new paint shop and comprehensive equipment and technology upgrades to produce lighter, stronger and more efficient vehicles.
Wil James, president of Toyota Motor Manufacturing Kentucky (TMMK), speaks as Ky. Gov. Matt Bevin, left, listens, during an April 10, 2017 announcement at the plant. During its $1.33 billion Reborn project, TMMK is receiving a new paint shop and comprehensive equipment and technology upgrades to produce lighter, stronger and more efficient vehicles.
Governor Matt Bevin indicates this commitment to ongoing innovation and improvement is “proof the Kentucky Toyota plant is not only a leader in manufacturing under the Toyota umbrella, but throughout the world.” He continues, “It points to the hard work and dedication of the plant’s employees, as well as Toyota’s commitment to our commonwealth. This project further distinguishes Kentucky as we work toward widespread recognition as an engineering and manufacturing hub of excellence in North America.”
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