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Posted on Thu, Aug 22, 2013 : 12:02 p.m.

Toyota shifting top engineering jobs to Ann Arbor area technical centers

By Ben Freed

Last year, Toyota celebrated the 35th anniversary of its two technical centers in the Ann Arbor area. According to a report in The Detroit News, the company has been delegating more responsibility to the engineers in those technical centers than ever before.


A Toyota Camry after a crash test at the company's technical center in York Township near Saline.

Melanie Maxwell |

Toyota had previously reserved the title “chief engineer” nearly exclusively for Japanese employees, but four Michiganders in the past five years have been promoted to the “vice president” equivalent position. The technical centers in York and Ann Arbor townships are now responsible for five vehicle lines, including the RAV4 EV and Avalon, according to The News report.

The 2013 Toyota Avalon was nearly entirely designed and engineered in the Ann Arbor area and was a featured model at Toyota’s display in the 2012 North American International Auto Show.

The selection of local chief engineers was accelerated by Akio Toyoda taking over as president and CEO of Toyota Motor Corp. and by the 2010 recall crisis the company faced, The News reported. Beneficiaries of the increased trust in American know-how included Toyota Sienna minivan chief engineer and University of Michigan alumnus Andrew Lund and University of Detroit graduate and Toyota Tundra and Tacoma pickup truck chief engineer Mike Sweers.

In a further display of Michigan’s importance to the Japanese auto company, Toyota’s North American CEO Osamu “Simon” Nagata announced in June that he will work out of the technical center in York Township near Saline.

Ben Freed covers business for You can sign up here to receive Business Review updates every week. Get in touch with Ben at 734-623-2528 or email him at Follow him on twitter @BFreedinA2



Fri, Aug 23, 2013 : 9:46 a.m.

Toyota has been adding jobs as the new facility in York Township came on line as well as breaking the glass wall for US employee development. It might be worth it to remind your readers of just how many people work in the two technical centers. and...of course, this goes even farther down the road of blurring what "made in America" means from a factual standpoint.

Basic Bob

Sat, Aug 24, 2013 : 11:43 a.m.

Most people think of them as foreign because the companies are located in other countries.

Ben Freed

Fri, Aug 23, 2013 : 1:34 p.m.

pseudo, That's a good point on job numbers, we've reported on it in the past but I don't have current exact numbers at the tech centers, I'll work on getting that. Interesting point about what "made in America" means. The Ann Arbor area is home to a number of technical and R&D centers for car brands that most people think of as "foreign."


Fri, Aug 23, 2013 : 11:40 a.m.

Of course, the last thing we'd want to do here is to give any sort of credit to anybody in a leadership position in Michigan who might have worked to bring this sort of work on-shore.

Nicholas Urfe

Thu, Aug 22, 2013 : 11:27 p.m.

I was told there will be fighting robots. Will there be fighting robots? How about honda vs. toyota fighting autonomous cars?

Ben Freed

Fri, Aug 23, 2013 : 1:32 p.m.

If they both were willing to go for it, that sounds like an event I would pay to see.

say it plain

Thu, Aug 22, 2013 : 6:51 p.m.

That headline is sooo misleading...truly, an unprofessional blatant attempt at boosterism that makes the 'journalism' look awful. To take the journalism of other outlets, cover it almost not at all here, and then create a headline that makes it look like *jobs* are being added to local centers instead of the apparent reality--that job *titles* are improving

Ben Freed

Fri, Aug 23, 2013 : 1:31 p.m.

say it plain, I'm sorry you dislike the headline, the word 'jobs' in this case was meant to indicate job titles (not necessarily a big stretch). However, to you point, additional jobs are also being added to the local centers. We previously reported that the company planned to hire 150 new employees at the centers ( We try to make sure that you are able to read all the news about local businesses here, so in this case we aggregated a story from the Detroit News. It would have been unfair to that publication to use more of their reporting here, so instead we direct you back to their site for the full story.

Basic Bob

Fri, Aug 23, 2013 : 12:12 a.m.

They all still report to a Japanese supervisor located on site. Having an American lead the pickup truck team makes sense since they reverse-engineered a design from an American competitor.