Toyota Motor Corp., struggling to meet U.S. demand and facing a possible political backlash over its imports from Japan, may build as many as five North American assembly plants in the next 10 years, according to people familiar with the plans.

The Japanese automaker will build at least one factory in the southeastern United States and one in Mexico, said the people, who asked not to be identified because the company hasn’t discussed the matter publicly.

Five more plants would give Toyota 12 in North America, about the same number Ford Motor Co. will have after its current round of closings. Based on Toyota’s recent investments, five factories would create about 10,000 jobs and cost $5 billion.

Toyota’s U.S. sales surged 13 percent last year to 2.54 million vehicles, pushing its market share to a record 15.4 percent from 13.3 percent a year earlier. Toyota overtook DaimlerChrysler AG for third place in United States sales behind General Motors Corp. and Ford. It may pass GM as the world’s biggest automaker this year.

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