The role of trucks in Toyota's surprising U.S. relocation

Apr 28, 2014

Toyota Tundra
Toyota Tundra
Credit Toyota

Toyota is moving its U.S. headquarters to Plano, Texas, near Dallas.

The relocation will affect thousands of people in Toyota's California and Kentucky faciliites.

The decision is something of a mystery, but it may have something to do with trucks.

Car companies make a lot more money on pickup trucks than cars. But Miami University professor James Rubenstein says those profits have largely eluded Toyota.

Rubenstein, a geography professor, tracks the geographic distribution of the auto industry in the U.S.

He points out that Toyota sells a fraction of the trucks that Ford, GM and Chrysler do.

"They're trying to figure out how to crack the truck market," says Rubenstein. "They have tried many things now over the last couple of decades culminating with building the trucks in Texas."

Now, the headquarters will be in Texas. Rubenstein says it's a risky move, mainly because it's so out of step with other car companies in the U.S., which are concentrated along I-75 in Ohio, Michigan, and southern states.

He says Toyota could also lose some of its employees – and still not crack the truck code in the end.

Toyota is not relocating its Technical Center near Ann Arbor, and will move about 250 people from Kentucky to that center as part of the changes.