* Brings more than 800 jobs to province
* New shift to meet strong demand for RAV4
TORONTO, Dec 10 (Reuters) - Toyota Canada Inc 7203.T said on Thursday it will add a second production shift at its Woodstock, Ontario, assembly plant, bringing more than 800 jobs to a province that has been hard hit by the severe downturn in the auto sector.
The company said it is increasing production of the RAV4 to 150,000 vehicles a year to meet the strong demand for the compact crossover utility vehicle.
Hiring at the plant in Woodstock, a small city of around 36,000, about 140 km (88 miles) southwest of Toronto, begins this week. There are currently about 1,200 employees there.
Toyota opened the C$1.1 billion ($1.05 billion) plant on Dec. 4 last year. That was during the same week that executives from Detroit’s Big Three -- General Motors Co [GM.UL], Ford Motor Co F.N, and Chrysler -- took their case for emergency funding to the U.S. and Canadian governments.
GM and Chrysler ended up needing a combined tens of billions of dollars in government aid to survive the recession, and to emerge from bankruptcy protection.
The slashing of jobs and the shuttering of plants pushed auto assembly employment in Canada to its lowest level in over 40 years, according to data from DesRosiers Automotive Consultants Inc, released earlier this week.[ID:nN07175201]
Toyota’s Woodstock facility was the first new auto plant to be built in Ontario in 20 years.
The Japanese-based automaker, which took the top monthly sales spot in Canada for first time ever in November, also has a plant in Cambridge, Ontario, about 45 km (28 miles) northeast of Woodstock. That plant employs about 4,500 people who build the Corolla, Matrix and Lexus RX 350.
$1=$1.05 Canadian Reporting by John McCrank; editing by Rob Wilson