Toyota to move 3,000 jobs from Southern California to Texas

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Toyota logoThe Toyota Motor Corp. plan to move its large sales and marketing headquarters in Torrance to a new U.S. corporate headquarters in suburban Dallas cements the company’s “Southern” strategy, according to analysts who follow the auto industry.

The automaker’s North American Chief Executive Jim Lentz told employees Monday morning that it will create a new campus in Plano, Texas, where its manufacturing, sales and marketing operations will be based.

He said that locating all this functions together will create a more efficient business. The Torrance complex has about 5,300 workers.

The Torrance campus was jammed Monday morning for Lentz’s announcement. The parking lots in the complex were overflowing and parking spaces on the street were full. Torrance police officers were stationed at the entrance of the headquarters and private security was also monitoring the buildings.

Toyota has long been a fixture of Southern California, having opened its first office in an old Rambler dealership in Hollywood back in 1957. But as the company started to build and operate factories in the U.S., it shifted its focus south. It closed its sole California factory in 2010.

Now its primary factories are in Kentucky, where it builds the Camry and Avalon; Mississippi, where it builds the Corolla; and Texas, where it builds Tundra and Tacoma pickup trucks. It also has a big engine plant in Alabama.

“They feel their future is in Dixie,” said James Rubenstein, an auto industry analyst and geography professor at Miami University in Oxford, Ohio.

Although the company is successful selling passenger cars in the U.S., it has never gained the traction in the truck market it had hoped for, Rubenstein said. Toyota’s sales are also too heavily weighted to women, he added.

“Texas is the most male, macho state in the country,” Rubenstein said. “Texas is where they think they can learn more about what big truck buyers want in their vehicles.”

“They have figured out how to build vehicles in Dixie but they haven’t figured out how to sell them there,” he said.

California has long played a pivotal role in the new auto industry, said Harley Shaiken, a UC Berkeley labor professor.

Companies such as Toyota located their marketing, management and design in California because the state was seen as setting the trends nationally, he said.

“Having your headquarters in California would put you close to all those social and cultural factors that were setting the trends across the country,” he said. “And you were in the largest single market for cars in the U.S.”