Toyota Motor Corp.
's North American operations have a new, unprecedented assignment: Develop cars. On your own.
For years, the Toyota Technical Center in Ann Arbor, Mich., did little more than test Japanese vehicles' emissions and, occasionally, tweak an existing design by, say, developing a coupe off a sedan that had been engineered in Japan.
But now the Michigan operation is taking on r&d tasks that used to be handled in Toyota City. It is designing and building cars from the ground up, under the guidance of American chief engineers. It has new, sophisticated equipment that has cut its former reliance on Japan for certain key tests in product development. And it is preparing to start developing engines, the last major gap in its technical capabilities.