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Toyota Expands U.S. Research, Design Centers

May 31, 1991

TORRANCE, Calif. (AP) _ Toyota Motor Corp. has dedicated a huge research and development center designed to meet the demands of U.S. environmental laws and the American consumer.

The $46 million facility in an industrial area south of Los Angeles, is part of an aggressive expansion of Toyota’s network of centers to develop new cars in the United States.

″We recognize that the best way to (satisfy) American buyers is to design cars here and produce them here,″ said Masaaki Ohashi, a senior managing director of Toyota. ″Our Japanese and U.S. engineers work together to create truly American Toyotas.″

All told, $220 million is being spent on the expansion in the research and development efforts, said Bob McCurry, executive vice president for sales and operations of Toyota Motor Sales USA.

The buildings dedicated Thursday were an expansion of Toyota Technical Center USA, which Toyota began in 1975.

Kunihiko Masaki, an executive vice president of the center, said that since that time it has grown from 35 to 250 employees. Of those, 90 are in the Los Angeles area.

The grand opening of the technical center came a day before the planned unveiling of Toyota’s expanded Calty Design Research studio in Newport Beach.

″We want to make sure that we design for the people who buy our vehicles, the Americans themselves,″ said Mindy Geller, a Toyota spokeswoman.

Like other automakers from Detroit, Europe and Japan, Toyota has for many years had a design studio in Southern California, regarded worldwide as the crucible of popular trends.

There are now about 15 such car studios in the region. But that’s just part of the trend, according to Tim Butte, director of corporate relations for the Art Center College of Design In Pasadena, a top conduit for young design talent.

Butte said the Japanese are increasingly hiring Art Center graduates to work designing all kinds of consumer goods, not just cars.

For Toyota, the commitment to design in California means transforming Calty in Newport Beach from essentially a think tank to a major center. With the expansion, Toyota will be able to design even more of vehicles designed for the American market, Ms. Geller said.

Toyota, Japan’s largest automaker, decided last year to build a 12,000-acre proving ground for its cars and trucks in the desert 45 miles northwest of Phoenix. It will be the seventh and largest such test facility in Arizona when it’s finished in 1993.

Another integration of Toyota into the American market came last year, when it decided to nearly double U.S. production of Camry cars and increase the amount of U.S.-made parts in them.

Toyota said it would spend $800 million to boost production of Camrys in Scott County, Ky., adding 1,500 jobs to its existing workforce of 3,450.

By building cars here, Toyota decreases its exposure to the volatile foreign exchange market. It also has become cheaper to build cars domestically than ship them from Japan.

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