Toyota launched its Lexus division in September 1989 with two 1990 models at opposite ends of the spectrum: the LS 400, a rear-drive V-8 flagship, and the ES 250, a front-drive cousin to the plebian Camry. In their first month, the two cars combined for 4,135 sales. Fast-forward nearly 25 years and Toyota has sold 4,397,799 Lexus cars and SUVs in America. Lexus led all luxury-brand sales from 2000 to 2010.
All without building a single car here.
That's right. Toyota, whose Kentucky- and Indiana-built Camry has led Cars.com's American-Made Index for four years in a row, imports its Lexus cars from Japan and Canada.
That's about to change, however. The automaker announced today it will build the ES 350 — five generations past the 1990 original — in Georgetown, Ky., to the tune of about $360 million invested. Toyota's 1,300-acre plant, its largest in North America, already assembles the Camry, Avalon and Venza, not to mention various four-cylinder and V-6 engines and other components. It employs 6,600 and builds some 500,000 cars a year; the ES will add 750 jobs and another 50,000 cars to the plant's annual capacity.