Toyota Canada yesterday announced that it is increasing production by 30,000 cars a year at its Cambridge plant, adding 700 workers, Reuters reported.

Toyota will boost its work force at the Canadian plant by 22% to 3,900 and plans to start making the Lexus RX 300 sport utility vehicle in September 2003, Reuters added.

Reuters said the plant, in southwestern Ontario, currently makes the Corolla, Matrix and Solara models, although production of the Camry-based Solara coupe/convertible will move to the United States next year.

Most of the new employees will work in production, but some will be in engineering and maintenance, Reuters said.

Reuters said that Toyota had originally planned to build 220,000 vehicles a year, up from the current 200,000, to handle the addition of the Lexus SUV but strong demand for the Corolla and Matrix models encouraged the company to revise its target to 250,000 units annually.

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Toyota expects Lexus production to hit full capacity by the end of 2003, Reuters said, adding that the plant will continue to operate on two shifts though an additional paint shop and welding area will be built for the Lexus.