ANN ARBOR, Mich. -- Osamu Nagata, the troubleshooting Toyota executive who now heads North American manufacturing and r&d, is on a mission to boost capacity and do it quickly -- first by expanding existing factories and then probably adding an assembly plant in Mexico.
After rebounding from its 2009-10 recall crisis and the 2011 Japan earthquake, Toyota is ready to go on the offensive.
"We need to catch up with market growth," Nagata said in an interview. "I am responsible for producing more."
The 56-year-old Japanese executive, who goes by Simon, is also spearheading the North American rollout of Toyota's radical effort to overhaul product development and commonize parts.
He concedes that suppliers, especially small ones, fear being shut out by the change. But Nagata was dispatched to smooth what could be a rocky transition because of time spent as North American purchasing chief in the 2000s.
Nagata took over in April as CEO of Toyota Motor Engineering & Manufacturing North America Inc. and head of its sprawling technical center outside Detroit. He is a confidant of Toyota Motor Corp. President Akio Toyoda and helped prepare his boss for the 2010 congressional hearings on sudden acceleration and the slow pace of Toyota's recall process.
Nagata, who is fluent in English, chose Toyota's tech center in Ann Arbor as his base of operations to network better with parts makers clustered around Detroit as he sorts out which suppliers will be part of Toyota's ambitious r&d overhaul. He is the first CEO of Toyota's North American engineering and production arm not to work out of the office in Erlanger, Ky.
"To learn more [about] the people in the automotive industry, I'd like to establish my own personal network here in Michigan," Nagata said. "One of the missions is to further develop the capability of r&d and manufacturing capacity here."