Toyota is upping the ante in Michigan with a major expansion designed to make it the automaker’s hub for product development. Thursday, Toyota officially broke ground on the expansion of the Toyota Technical Center in York Township, near Ann Arbor. It’s the first visible step toward expanding its footprint in Michigan, while strengthening its growing North American research and development operations.
“The expansion of this campus is a key element of Toyota’s ongoing unification of our North American operations, which includes a new headquarters in Plano, Texas,” said Toyota North America CEO Jim Lentz in remarks during the ceremony. “Investments here in Michigan will intensify Toyota’s engineering, product development and procurement capabilities. The impact of this will be felt by our customers through improved quality, adoption of new technologies and greater value of the vehicles we produce.”
Toyota is pouring $126 million in the project, which includes construction of a new prototype facility for vehicle development and a Supplier Center. It will be a hub of sorts and enable day-to-day collaboration between the purchasing group, engineering design team and supplier partners to better satisfy the needs of Toyota customers today and into the future.
The expansion also enlarges Toyota’s powertrain development facility on its Ann Arbor Township campus. This element of the project will better position Toyota to develop engines and automatic transmissions for the North American designed and manufactured vehicles.
With expansion comes jobs, and to that end, Toyota will relocate more than 300 team members to Michigan. The moves include direct procurement and supplier engineering development positions currently based in Erlanger, Ky. and vehicle development and powertrain functions that are presently in California.
You’ll also remember that Toyota is moving its North American headquarters from Southern California to Plano, Texas, north of Dallas, in an effort to cut costs and be more centrally located to customers.
“It’s going well. We’ve broken ground in Plano so we are moving dirt. Hopefully we’ll start putting up concrete and steel in the next 60 to 90 days,” Lentz said. “The new campus should be complete by late 2016, likely early 2017, so 2017 will really be the transition year.”
To mark Thursday’s groundbreaking, Toyota donated three Tundra pickup trucks, one to each of the three different fire departments that serve Toyota’s two regional facilities: Ann Arbor Township, Saline and Milan. As Lentz presented truck keys to each fire chief, he expressed Toyota’s sincere appreciation for the fire fighters’ work in keeping Toyota associates safe, be it through routine inspections or the occasional emergency call.
All construction will be completed in late 2016.