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Reuters / February 05, 2003

TOKYO - Toyota Motor Corp., Japan's biggest automaker, said on Wednesday it would build a sixth North American vehicle plant in San Antonio, Texas, with an eye to boosting its growing sales in the region.

Toyota said it would spend $800 million on the plant, which would build 150,000 Tundra pickups a year starting in 2006. The plant will employ about 2,000 people.

The decision was widely expected as several newspapers have reported on details of the plan since late last year.

The new plant would raise Toyota's annual output capacity in North America to 1.65 million vehicles from 1.25 million now.

Japan's top automakers have been making big strides in the United States at the expense of local players, mainly by introducing models in the fast-growing and profitable light truck segment, which now makes up more than half of the overall market.

Ahead of the San Antonio plant, Toyota also will build a $140 million factory near Tijuana, Mexico, just south of San Diego, to produce 20,000 small pickups each year from 2005.

Honda Motor Co., ranked fifth in the United States after Toyota, is also racing to catch up with demand by doubling capacity at its light-truck plant in Alabama to 300,000 units a year by spring of 2004.

Nissan Motor Co., Japan's third-largest automaker, will begin producing the new Titan pickup and three light trucks at its new $1.4 billion assembly plant in Canton, Miss., this spring.

Toyota has expanded sales volume in the United States for nine straight years to grab a 10.4 percent share of the world's biggest car market last year.

It hopes to continue growing in North America to bring its global market share to 15 percent over the next decade from 10 percent now.

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