Manufacturing

Toyota, Mazda investing $830 million more in Alabama plant

The Mazda Toyota Manufacturing plant construction in Alabama was delayed by COVID-19.

Photo courtesy of Toyota Motor Corporation

Mazda Toyota Manufacturing (MTM), a joint-venture between Mazda Motor Corporation and Toyota Motor Corporation, announced an additional $830 million investment into the new Alabama plant. This brings the total amount committed to the project to $2.311 billion, up from the $1.6 billion originally announced in 2018.

The money will go toward adding more cutting-edge manufacturing technologies to the production lines and providing enhanced trainman got its workforce, estimated to be up to 4,000 employees. These manufacturing technologies will support the to-be-announced Mazda crossover and Toyota SUV that will be produced at the plant.

2021 Toyota Corolla Cross Toyota recently introduced the 2021 Toyota Corolla Cross in global markets, but it's not coming to America ... yet. Photo courtesy of Toyota Motor Corporation

"Toyota's presence in Alabama continues to build excitement about future opportunities that lie ahead, both for our economy and for the residents of our great state," Alabama Governor Kay Ivey said. "Mazda and Toyota's increased commitment to the development of this manufacturing plant reiterates their belief in the future of manufacturing in America and the potential for the state of Alabama to be an economic leader in the wake of unprecedented economic change."

The new facility will have the capacity to produce up to 150,000 units of a future Mazda crossover vehicle and up to 150,000 units of the Toyota SUV each year. MTM has already hired approximately 600 employees to date, with plans to resume accepting applications for production positions later in 2020.

"Mazda Toyota Manufacturing is proud to call Alabama home. Through strong support from our state and local partners, we have been able to further incorporate cutting-edge manufacturing technologies, provide world-class training for team members and develop the highest quality production processes," Mark Brazeal, VP of Administration at MTM said. "As we prepare for the start of production next year, we look forward to developing our future workforce and serving as a hometown company for many years to come."

"This newest investment by our partners at Mazda Toyota Manufacturing shows the company's continued confidence in the ability of our community to provide a strong, skilled workforce to meet the demands for quality and reliability. We look forward to the day when the first vehicles roll off the line," said City of Huntsville Mayor Tommy Battle.

"We are excited to learn of this additional investment being made by Mazda Toyota Manufacturing," said Limestone County Commission Chairman Collin Daly. "We continue to be grateful to MTM for their belief in our county and look forward to our partnership with them for many years to come."

Full-scale construction of the plant continues, with 75 to 100 percent completion on roofing, siding, floor slabs, ductwork, fire protection and electrical. Construction on the facility was hampered by the outbreak of COVID-19 causing a months-long delay in the projected opening of the facility.

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Nuts & Bolts

 
 

The expected range of the Volkswagen ID.4 has been confirmed.

Photo courtesy of Volkswagen AG

The 2021 Volkswagen ID.4 will have an EPA-estimated 250-mile range. The estimate is for ID.4 1st Edition and Pro models. The EPA-estimated fuel economy for city driving is 104 MPGe; highway driving is rated at 89 MPGe, and combined city/highway at 97 MPGe. It will be VW's first long-range model sold in the U.S.

The ID.4 1st Edition and Pro will be the first models out of the gate for VW. They feature an 82 kilowatt-hour battery and a rear-mounted motor that produces 201 horsepower and 228 pound-feet of torque.

2021 Volkswagen ID.4 The interior of the ID.4 features a minimalist aesthetic.Photo courtesy of Volkswagen AG

Volkswagen says that at a DC fast-charging station, with 125 kilowatt charging, the ID.4 can go from five to 80 percent charged in about 38 minutes. VW is providing three years of Electrify America fast charging with every ID.4 purchase at no additional cost. Electrify America is the nation's largest open DC fast charging network with more than 470 charging stations and over 2,000 DC fast chargers. Earlier this year the company completed its second cross-country charging route.

Based on calculations by Volskwagen using the EPA's cost allowances, it will cost $700 per year, on average, to fuel the ID.4 in the U.S. The company estimates that over five years owners will save $2,250 compared to the average new model.

The first ID.4s will be made overseas soon. VW will make the battery electric vehicle (BEV) in the U.S.A at VW's Chattanooga plant. The model will be made and go on sale in early 2021.

Pricing for the ID.4 starts at $39,995 for the ID.4 Pro. Buyers may qualify for a $7,500 federal tax credit. The limited-run ID.4 1st Edition, which sold out the day the vehicle was launched, carried an MSRP of $43,995.

Volkswagen has plans to release a 302-horsepower, electric all-wheel-drive variant of the ID.4 later in 2021. Range estimates for that model are forthcoming.

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Ford has cowboy up with the new Expedition King Ranch and Platinum for 2020.

Photo courtesy of Ford Motor Company

As is true with the 2020 Ford F-150, the 2020 Ford Expedition's King Ranch trim level sits in a sweet spot in the lineup. It's neither too inelegant to appeal to refined palettes nor too fancy to appeal to more rugged types. On top of that, Ford has given the model the type of accommodations that are good for children and adults.

As tested, the 2020 Ford Expedition King Ranch came in at $74,885, That includes the $72,895 base price, $595 paint color surcharge, and a $1,395 destination and delivery fee. Granted, that's a lot of money, but it's not nearly as expensive as the Expedition's more premium rivals like the Cadillac Escalade. Out of the Expedition's four trim levels, the King Ranch sits three out of four with only the Expedition Platinum being better appointed and pricier.

2020 Ford Expedition King Ranch The Expedition mirrors the last-generation Explorer in the looks department.Photo courtesy of Ford Motor Company

The Expedition, for all intents and purposes, is the SUV version of Ford F-Series. While its exterior looks more like the last-generation Explorer than the F-150, it's setting foot in the interior that tells the true story. The entire dashboard, center console, and seat design is straight from the F-150 and Super Duty playbook. This isn't a bad thing. The F-Series lineup is filled with very good trucks.

The exterior of the Expedition King Ranch has a more panache than the trucks. From its standard 22-inch six-spoke painted machined-face aluminum wheels with dark tarnish-painted pockets and King Ranch center caps to the Stone Gray-colored grille mesh, lower bumpers, power running boards, rear bumper skid plate, trailer hitch cover, roof. rack side rails, and side mirror caps, the model wears a bit of its upscale sheen right up front where all those near the Expedition can see it.

The King Ranch theme continues to the interior of the Expedition where Ebony Del Rio leather covers the door trim and Mesa Del Rio leather covers the armrests and steering wheel. Kingsville stitching, named after the town where the historic King Ranch is located in Texas, features on the steering wheel. The center console is a combination of Del Rio leather and Ziricote wood veneer.

2020 Ford Expedition King Ranch The interior of the model is richly appointed.Photo courtesy of Ford Motor Company

The result is a look that rivals the materials in the redesigned 2021 GMC Yukon and 2021 Chevrolet Suburban, the Expedition's chief rivals. The seats in the Expedition's front and second row are just as comfy and small item storage is just as available.

Where the competition has the edge is the Expedition's infotainment system. The standard 8.0-inch screen is small compared to what others in the vehicle's class now offer. That being said, the roster of tech that accompanies the screen is good and includes satellite radio, voice recognition, Android Auto, Apple CarPlay, and a Wi-Fi hot spot. Upgrading gets a buyer keyless entry, remote start, a panoramic sunroof, navigation, two additional USB ports, wireless device charging, a Bang & Olufson sound system, HD Radio, and a rear-seat entertainment system.

Ford Co-Pilot360 is standard on all Expeditions. The suite of driver assist and safety technology includes automatic high beams, blind spot warning with cross traffic alert, lane keep alert and assist, pre-collision assist with emergency braking and pedestrian detection, and a rearview camera. Upper tier models gets adaptive cruise control. The system works as advertised and doesn't prove too annoying during daily use.

2020 Ford Expedition King Ranch The leather-wrapped steering wheel features Kingsville stitching.Photo courtesy of Ford Motor Company

Driving the Expedition King Ranch is easy but there's no getting around the fact that it's a large SUV based on a truck platform. Driving the Suburban and Yukon is an easier, more connected experience. Still, driving these SUVs is nowhere near as taxing as it was 15 years ago.

The Expedition is powered by a turbocharged 3.5-liter V6 that delivers 375 horsepower and 470 pound-feet of torque for use. Acceleration off the line creates confidence, but you won't see the SUV making any speed records any time soon. The larger engines in the General Motors rivals deliver a more inspiring effort but are slightly less fuel efficient (19 mpg vs. 17/18 mpg for the Suburban when similarly equipped).

The 2020 Ford Expedition King Ranch is the most premium model you can get without going full Platinum. For daily driving, it's all the Expedition you'll need, coupled with higher-end appointments and sophisticated looks.

2020 Ford Expedition King Ranch The second-row seats in the Expedition are nearly as comfortable as those up front.Photo courtesy of Ford Motor Company

However, if you're looking to spend $70,000 or more on an SUV, it is worth cross-shopping the new Chevrolet Suburban and GMC Yukon. Both offer compelling reasons to choose them over the Expedition. That being said, if you're a Blue Oval family and opt for the Expedition, when you go out to your driveway and hop inside, you likely won't be disappointed.

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