07/24/2012 01:58 EDT | Updated 09/23/2012 05:12 EDT

Toyota to hire 400 for Cambridge expansion

Toyota Canada said Tuesday it will hire 400 workers and invest $100 million in its Cambridge, Ont., plant as it moves to increase production of Lexus RX models from 30,000 vehicles to 104,000 by 2014.

The automaker says its annual production capacity in Canada will rise to 500,000 units.

The expansion will include capacity to make 15,000 RX450h vehicles, the hybrid electric version of the Lexus.

"For almost nine years now, Canada has had the only Lexus production outside of Japan," Ray Tanguay, Toyota Motor Manufacturing Canada chairman, said in a release.

In March, the company announced it would ramp up production of its RAV4 crossover vehicles at its Woodstock, Ont., assembly plant with an $80-million investment — a move it said would also create some 400 new jobs.

Ontario has seen traditional Detroit Three carmakers — GM, Ford and Chrysler — cut tens of thousands of jobs in the last decade as their parent companies restructured in the United States.

But Toyota and Honda have expanded their operations in Ontario, Canada's manufacturing heartland.

Toyota has faced production problems due to last year's earthquake and tsunami in Japan and massive flooding in Thailand that cut parts supplies and slowed down their global output, even in Canada.

But sales have begun to spring back recently, with Toyota Canada reporting it sold 16,957 vehicles in June, 70.1 per cent more than last June.

Toyota began its Canadian operations in 1986 in Cambridge.

It currently employs some 7,000 Canadians at two plants in Cambridge and one in Woodstock, where the Toyota Corolla, Toyota Matrix, Toyota RAV4, and the Lexus RX 350 vehicles are manufactured.