TRAVERSE CITY, Mich.-- Toyota Motor Corp. is studying the need to add more personnel at its North American technical center as it adds factories and models.
The automaker has slowly increased the size of its technical operations in North America the past decade. But Toyotas planned growth is pushing it to a new level of need, said Atsushi Niimi, a Toyota director and president of Toyota Motor Manufacturing North America Inc.
Were asking the question now, Niimi said yesterday after speaking at the Management Briefing Seminars.
Trucks in particular are creating a new challenge for the U.S. operation. The Toyota Technical Center U.S.A. Inc. in Ann Arbor, Mich., has been building up its capabilities since the late 1980s, but mostly to engineer and design cars.
Toyota is now preparing to re-design its full-sized Tundra pickup in the United States. To handle that project, Niimi noted, Toyota will have to rely on technical support from its heavy-duty truck subsidiary, Hino.
We will be co-located for that project, to work together on it, Niimi said of Hino.
The executive provided no timetable for adding more technical personnel. The Ann Arbor technical center now employs 635 people, handling design, engineering, component work, testing and evaluation. That operation doubled in size between 1990 and 1992 when Toyota embarked on a drive to better tailor its Japanese-designed cars to North American tastes.
The centers expansion has since been more gradual. Last August, it doubled the size of a vehicle evaluation building and added a small number of people. That change allowed Toyota to move its evaluations of Asian-built models from California into a single Ann Arbor operation.
Niimi said the changes are all part of Toyotas effort to make its North American subsidiary more self reliant.
It also comes at a time when one of its chief Japanese competitors, Nissan North America, is revving up its own U.S. technical capabilities. Nissan is currently working to double the size of its Farmington Hills, Mich., technical center to about 1,200 people.