December 4, 2008 / 9:18 PM / in 9 years

Toyota opens new Ontario plant, brings 1,200 jobs

TORONTO (Reuters) - Toyota Canada Inc cut the ribbon on a new C$1.1 billion ($859 million) assembly plant in Woodstock, Ontario on Thursday, bringing about 1,200 new jobs to a sector that has been losing jobs rapidly.

The plant is assembling the RAV4, a compact sports utility vehicle, and will produce up to 100,000 vehicles a year in Woodstock, a small city of around 36,000 people, known for its tree-lined streets and Victorian homes, about 140 kilometers (88 miles) southwest of Toronto.

The Japanese-based automaker also has a plant in Cambridge, Ontario, about 40 minutes, northeast of Woodstock, employing 4,500 people to build the Corolla, Matrix and Lexus RX 350.

The Woodstock plant opens the same week that executives from Detroit’s Big Three -- General Motors Corp, Ford Motor Co, and Chrysler -- took their case for emergency aid to the U.S. Congress.

They are asking for $34 billion in loans and credit lines to stay afloat until market conditions improve.

Toyota has not been immune to the market downturn.

The company has already had to temporarily scale back production plans at the Woodstock plant. It said on November 20 it will halt production at all of its North American facilities for two days this month, December 22 and 23, in reaction to slow U.S. sales.

The government of Ontario provided more than C$22.8 million for skills training, in addition to a grant of C$70 million to help bring the Toyota plant to Ontario.

“Having the best workers helps attract the best jobs, and that’s why we’re so pleased to work with Toyota,” said Ontario Premier Dalton McGuinty.

“Our government will continue working with the auto industry to secure good jobs for Ontario families.”

The Toyota plant was the first new auto plant to be built in Ontario in 20 years.

($1=$1.27 Canadian)

Reporting by John McCrank; editing by Peter Galloway

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