Toyota expands Canadian plant to keep up with demand

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Toyota is raising car production and its labor force by 50 percent at an upcoming factory in Canada as the Japanese automaker rushes to meet demand in North America.

Toyota, which is expected to overtake struggling General Motors as the world’s top auto group in the near future, said it would boost investment in the factory to 1.1 billion Canadian dollars (950 million US) from an originally planned 800 million.

The factory, which is due to start operations in early 2008 in Woodstock, Ontario, is now set to employ 2,000 people instead of the 1,300 in the initial plan.

It will have the capacity to produce 150,000 RAV4 compact sport utility vehicles a year, up from 100,000, raising Toyota’s total production capacity in North America to 1.88 million units a year in 2008.

The expansion "is aimed at allowing a flexible response to future market demand in North America," a Toyota statement said.

Woodstock is the first completely new car assembly plant to be built in Canada in two decades and Toyota’s second in the country.

Toyota said Tuesday it enjoyed record profits in the three months to December, helped by the growing popularity of its fuel-efficient hybrid cars in North America.

Detroit-based giants General Motors and Ford plan to close more than a dozen factories and eliminate more than 60,000 jobs over the next three years.

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