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Posted on Tue, Jan 12, 2010 : 12:01 p.m.

Minivan or sedan? 2011 Toyota Sienna engineered in Ann Arbor region

By Nathan Bomey

The Ann Arbor region’s Toyota Technical Center conducted engineering on the redesigned 2011 Toyota Sienna minivan, which is on display at the 2010 Detroit auto show.

A key part of the redesign is that Sienna LE and XLE models now include a powered, lift-up seat that improves accessibility for people who need help getting into the vehicle.

It’s the first time a major automaker has sold a factory-installed lift-up seat, Toyota says.

Toyota Sienna.JPG

The Toyota Technical Center in York Township completed engineering work on the redesigned 2011 Toyota Sienna minivan, which has the look of a sedan.

Nathan Bomey |

“It’s really kind of a neat feature that’s accommodating for people with disabilities,” said Bruce Brownlee, senior executive administrator for external affairs for the Toyota Technical Center in York Township.

Brownlee said Toyota Technical Center engineers spent about 2 years working on the new Sienna, first introduced in December at the Los Angeles Auto Show.

Perhaps the most noticeable change for the Sienna, which will be available at showrooms in February, is that it almost looks more like a sedan than a minivan.

According to Toyota:

The Sienna minivan equipped with the Auto Access Seat will offer a much needed transportation solution for the caregivers of an elderly parent or spouse with a walking disability, a disabled veteran, or for the parents of child with a disability.

The Auto Access Seat features a one-touch operation and benefits from the all-new Sienna’s spacious interior and wide-opening sliding doors. A seat-mounted ingress/egress switch and a wireless remote control allows for easy and flexible seat operation. The seat rotates 90 degrees and can be lowered to within 19 inches of the ground to further facilitate easier passenger transfers at the exact height required.

Once inside, the Auto Access Seat occupant can utilize reclining and slide switches located on both sides of the seat. This allows operation of up to four inches of slide travel and reclining of up to 24 degrees. The auto-recline feature also allows for safe head clearance through the door frame during entry and exit. The compact design of the seat also provides ample legroom for third-row passengers.

Contact’s Nathan Bomey at (734) 623-2587 or You can also follow him on Twitter.



Wed, Jan 13, 2010 : 8:11 p.m.

Remember this: for every factory that Toyota opened everywhere else but here meant a plant sumwhere else- usually in the upper midwest- closed: it is a zero sum game. Now the story would be different if Toyota built in inner-city Detroit, Cleveland, Flint or Pontiac. They would actually be contributing something to this state and perhaps we would not have 15 percent unemployment. And please, do not give the union argument. Toyota and Honda operate in non-right-to-work states. Why not build a plant in Michigan?


Wed, Jan 13, 2010 : 4:45 p.m.'s made in China Unless there's a Shenzhen, Wisconson.


Wed, Jan 13, 2010 : 2:42 p.m.

Grab some wood there bub, Iphone is made in China.


Wed, Jan 13, 2010 : 2:09 p.m.

The idea of "buy American" is as outdated and obsolete as the UAW itself. So what if the profits from Toyota go to Japan. What has GM, Ford, and Chrysler done lately with their "profits" to help out America? Oh wait, 2 of them actually sent the US government a bill. I can tell you that Toyota has built several new plants in the US that employ many people who are grateful to have those jobs. So, all you "buy American" believers out there, I have a challenge for you. Pull out your cell phone. If it says Blackberry (Canada), Nokia (Finland), Samsung (Korea), or LG (Korea), then SHAME ON YOU! In the mean time, I will feel good as I check my iPhone (USA). Who cares where it was made, or where the company headquarters is located. Buy what you want.


Wed, Jan 13, 2010 : 12:47 p.m.

As consumers it is always wise to purchase a quality car that meets your family needs and budget (that's what the free market is all about). We're lucky Toyota has brought jobs to our area. But even better news is hearing that good old Ford Motor Company has agreed to invest $550 million to bring the production of the all-new Ford Focus and a battery-electric version of the Focus to the Michigan Assembly Plant in Wayne. This is all good news for Michiganders.


Wed, Jan 13, 2010 : 12:32 p.m.

I bought a Japaneese car because that no Amercian designed/assembled/touched/breathed on at any point during it's birth. Americans have just lost the automotive battle for now, and it isn't changing anytime soon. I want to make sure one of the bigget purchases of my life is going to treat me right and be around for a long time...instead Ford is dazzling me with the ability to talk to my radio and pick songs (which does NOT work that well).

Atticus F.

Wed, Jan 13, 2010 : 11:07 a.m.

Lets not forget that these people who are working at plants in Kentucky, Alabama, ect.., Are all paying federal income tax. And some of those dollars are spent right here in Michigan to improve roads, bridges, ect... It would be Ideal to buy cars That run well, are built and designed in America, and completely owned by American share holders...But if Toyota is going to employ Americans while Ford sends jobs to Mexico...


Wed, Jan 13, 2010 : 8:50 a.m.

How about building a vehicle that will match the quality of an import? I bought a brand new Chevy Silverado in 06, shortly after my 36,000 mile warranty expired I've droped about $4,000 in repairs. Paid over $30,000 and it was built in Indiana. Have a 1998 Mercedes 300 series has over 100K miles and has never been in the shop and it will out run 90% of any NEW AMERICAN vehicle. Granted some domestic vehicles are good cars, I have yet to get one in over the 40 years of driving and buying cars. If the American cars would back up their warranties like my Hyundai I would buy American every time. It doesn't make sense to buy American if it doesn't last. I see they already have issues with the Focus and it hasn't even left the Auto Floors, gee who would have figured that?


Wed, Jan 13, 2010 : 4:58 a.m.

I agree with dakabk and the dog. It is not a matter of supporting American jobs as it is a matter of supporting Michigan jobs. Toyota has their little engineering office. Chrysler, Ford, and GM have engineering, adminstration, and MANUFACTURING in Michigan. Why doesn't Toyota? We are just thrown crumbs from this mult-billion dollar enterprise while Toyota creates the real jobs in Kentucky, Mississippi, and Texas. Regarding Toyotas being built by Americans: the folks that work at GM, Ford, and Chrysler are American too. Just a little over a year ago, ingrates like senators Dick Shelby, Jim Bunning, Which McConnel, and congresspukes like John Boehner and Whichelle Bachman were all too eager to pull the plug on GM and Chrysler and send millions of people into the unemployment lines. It is for that reason I will NEVER buy a vehichle made in Alabama, Kentucky, etc. It is time we looked after our neighbors.


Wed, Jan 13, 2010 : 4:51 a.m.

How about a piece of ugly junk? Behold the Aztec of the 2010s! Design is too busy and un-unified.

Jon Saalberg

Tue, Jan 12, 2010 : 7:35 p.m.

Almost all cars have some non-American content. Those Out of a job yet? Keep buying foreign bumper stickers just make Michiganders look ignorant. Notice that half the vehicles on this list: Top American-Made Vehicles are not American nameplates. A Sienna is a minivan. Period. All those MUVs or SUVs or whatever UVs are not minivans, and not as useful. We bought a used Mazda MPV because we wanted the space a minivan has and Mazda stopped shipping minivans here, instead saddling Americans with more UVs that do not have nearly the room of a minivan. I guess chic design has trumped functionality.


Tue, Jan 12, 2010 : 6:12 p.m.

US Employment as of Year End 2008: GM 142,000 Ford 85,000 Toyota 35,000 And I'm sure the discrepancy is even larger when you look only at Southeast Michigan. Keep right on thinking you're supporting your local economy when you buy a Toyota. And while you're at it, don't complain about risgin unemployment, falling property values, declining tax revenues forcing cuts in local school districts and local municipalities etc.....because surely they can't be related.

Mike D.

Tue, Jan 12, 2010 : 5:48 p.m.

The Fusion is made in Mexico. And the only "domestic" minivan is the Dodge Caravan/Chrysler Town and Country, and it is produced in Canada by an Italian company known as Fiat. I know people who worked on the Sienna in Michigan. Should I tell them that I can't be their friend because they work for a company based overseas? What about my friends who work for Dodge? I guess GM is out because they took a bailout, so I'm left buying only Fords? Really?


Tue, Jan 12, 2010 : 5:36 p.m.

I have to agree with icedog If Toyota or anyone elese is employing Americians I really don't care who gets the profits.And someone please tell me icedog is wrong about the fusion,my mom just bought one and if she knew it was made in Mexico she would feel really bad ( I won't be able to tell her though)


Tue, Jan 12, 2010 : 5:05 p.m.

Ice Dog - And where do the profits Toyota makes go.....back to Japan. Do the math and tote up how many people Toyota employs in Southeast Michigan (or the US for that matter) against Ford and then come back with your argument about Buy American.


Tue, Jan 12, 2010 : 4:03 p.m.

Buy American? The 2010 Ford Fusion is made Hermosillo, Mexico (not part of America yet). The 2010 Ford Transit Connect van is made in Romania of all places (that's in Europe). The Toyota Sienna is made in Princeton, Indiana (That is in America). So there you go: BUY AMERICAN!!


Tue, Jan 12, 2010 : 2:51 p.m.

Buy whatever you want, from your OWN company, BUY AMERICAN!! your own job depends on it, not just auto company employees!! the dog

Mike D.

Tue, Jan 12, 2010 : 2:46 p.m.

Almost looks more like a sedan? Yeah, and my Mini looks almost like a Hummer. Dude, stay off the wacky weed.