DETROIT – When it goes into production in November at Toyota Motor Corp.’s Georgetown, KY, plant, the new ’09 Venza cross/utility vehicle will have seen the least involvement from Japan of any North American product, a company official says.

“(The Venza is) almost totally North America," Steve St. Angelo, president of Toyota Motor Mfg. Kentucky, says at the North American International Auto Show here. "Our team members have been involved since day one, and they’ve really provided a lot of good ideas and solutions and countermeasures.”

St. Angelo confirms the slow-selling Camry Solara will be exiting production once the ’08 model year is up, as the Venza takes its spot on Georgetown’s No.2 production line.

For a short time, as Solara production winds down and Venza output ramps up, there will be four models built on the line, including the Camry and Camry Hybrid sedans. Less than 100 employees will be hired as a result of the Venza addition, St. Angelo says.

“If we didn’t receive this vehicle, we would have had a very big gap because Solara sales were going down really fast,” he says. “People just aren’t buying coupes. So we needed (the Venza) to keep production running at its capacity at Kentucky."

Georgetown competes to build vehicles with other Toyota plants, St. Angelo says.

The auto maker is receiving $25 million in tax breaks over a 10-year period from the state of Kentucky for Venza assembly, a company spokesman says.

Toyota expects to sell 75,000 Venzas annually, the same amount of capacity Georgetown will have available.

Last year, Toyota built 38,000 Camrys at Subaru of Indiana Inc. Additional Camry output is expected to shift from Georgetown to SIA as the Venza comes on line.

Meanwhile, St. Angelo says Toyota’s new plant in Woodstock, ON, Canada, is on schedule to open later this year. Hiring for the plant, which will produce the RAV4 CUV, is not yet complete, he says.

Hiring also has begun for skilled trades at Toyota’s future Blue Springs, MS, plant that will build the Highlander CUV beginning in 2010.

cschweinsberg@wardsauto.com