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Reports: S.C. in running for Toyota-Mazda production facility

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South Carolina is once again on the short list for an automotive production plant, according to several national media outlets.

Toyota and Mazda signed an agreement Friday to build a $1.6 billion auto manufacturing plant in the U.S. by 2021, pending regulatory and governmental approvals. The facility would produce 300,000 vehicles a year and create up to 4,000 jobs.

It would require two assembly lines and 1,000 acres, according to anonymous sources quoted in The Wall Street Journal.

The automakers did not say where the plant will be built. The Wall Street Journal said South Carolina is among 11 states — Alabama, Florida, Kentucky, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Michigan, Mississippi, North Carolina and Texas —  vying for the jobs, supplier base and investment dollars that would flow from a new automotive plant.

If the plant came to South Carolina, it would join three other major automakers — BMW Manufacturing Co. produces several models at its Greer plant, Mercedes-Benz Vans North Charleston campus is undergoing a large expansion, and Volvo Cars will begin building S60 sedans at its new campus in Berkeley County in 2018.

South Carolina secured several mega aerospace and automotive manufacturers in recent years by offering large tracts of land, proximity to the Port of Charleston, workforce training programs and lucrative incentive deals — like Volvo’s cash deal from the state.

The state Commerce Department said it is “unable to comment on projects we may or may not be actively working.”

Joint venture

At the joint U.S. plant, Mazda expects to produce crossover models, and Toyota plans to produce its Corolla model. Both automotive companies will build vehicles for the North American market.

Toyota decided to produce the Corolla in the U.S. rather than at its future plant under construction in Guanajuato, Mexico, which will manufacture the Tacoma.

The companies also will develop technologies for electric vehicles, connected cars and advanced safety. Few further details were available.

“With increasing demand and expectations for electric vehicles worldwide, Toyota and Mazda are to explore joint development of technologies for the basic structure of competitive electric vehicles, mobilizing and exchanging expertise freely and actively,” Toyota said in a news release. “These technologies will allow the companies to respond quickly to regulations and market trends in each country.”

The alliance comes at a time when the auto industry faces challenges, including strict environmental and safety regulations for new vehicles and an increasingly competitive landscape, the companies said.

“This is a partnership in which those who are passionate about cars will work together to make ever-better cars,” Toyota President Akio Toyoda said in a news release. “It is also the realization of our desire to never let cars become commodities.”

President Donald Trump tweeted in support of the partnership

Reach Liz Segrist at 843-849-3119.

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