Toyota opens $154 million randd center expansion in Mich.
Shinichi Yasui, Toyota’s North American executive vice president overseeing r&d, on the expanded center near Ann Arbor, Mich.: “We now have a fully developed research and development operation in the heart of the auto industry in southeast Michigan which will allow for deep collaboration between all departments.”
UPDATED: 5/4/17 3:54 pm ET – adds details
Toyota Motor Corp. has opened its expanded North American r&d center near Ann Arbor, Mich., completing a project started in 2014 when the automaker began moving much of its U.S. purchasing, vehicle development and powertrain engineering to Michigan.
The “One Toyota” plan to unify its operations in North America kicked off three years ago with the announcement of Toyota’s headquarters move from California to Texas and the expansion Toyota’s r&d center, which is also celebrating 40 years of operation in the U.S. today.
Jim Lentz, CEO of Toyota Motor North America Inc., said the $154 million expansion in Michigan “is an incredible next step in Toyota’s journey in North America.”
Toyota’s North American r&d efforts are led by Shinichi Yasui, who arrived last month from his previous position of Toyota Motor Corp.’s general manager of midsize vehicles.
“We now have a fully developed research and development operation in the heart of the auto industry in southeast Michigan which will allow for deep collaboration between all departments,” Yasui said in a statement.
Lentz, speaking to a large crowd at the r&d center, said Thursday the facility is more than just a building.
“It’s a new way of working; it’s a culture shift,” Lentz said. The expansion moves engineers, technicians, designers, manufacturing experts and suppliers closer together. The improved collaboration will help Toyota achieve its goal of “ever better vehicles,” he said.
Toyota said 1,600 employees are working at the revamped center and that further expansion is possible. Lentz said Toyota is recruiting engineers to fill open positions. A strong focus at the r&d center, he said, was the future of mobility. That includes self-driving cars and ride-sharing services.
The r&d center expansion is part of a reorganization of Toyota’s North American corporate footprint. The company is moving its headquarters from Torrance, Calif., to a new 11-building campus in Plano, Texas. The move is expected to be completed this year. About 75 percent of the company’s 4,000 employees at the California office are expected to make the move to Plano.