When It Announced Early Last Year it would build the Highlander cross/utility vehicle in the U.S., Toyota Motor Corp. said it would not include the hybrid-electric variant.

However, the auto maker now is studying that possibility, Steve St. Angelo, senior vice president-Toyota Motor Engineering and Mfg. North America Inc., tells Ward's

“We're considering building that in the U.S.,” St. Angelo says.

Last month, Toyota announced it would shift production of the Highlander from an under-construction site near Tupelo, MS, to its Princeton, IN, plant in fall 2009.

If Toyota does build the Highlander Hybrid in the U.S., St. Angelo says the auto maker will still import units from Japan.

Toyota assembles the HEV at its Kyushu, Japan, plant, alongside its close cousin, the Lexus RX 400h.

When Toyota decided to shift Highlander production to Indiana, it also announced it would for the first time build its Prius HEV in the U.S., at its upcoming facility in Mississippi.

Also announced in mid-July was the decision to consolidate all builds of Toyota's fullsize Tundra pickup truck at its San Antonio plant, early next year.

Toyota Says Labor Force, Not Incentives Won Mississippi New Plant