By on July 9, 2017

Toyota Camry Assembly Factory Georgetown

Jim Lentz, CEO of Toyota Motor North America, is going to great lengths to tell the world his company is only going to get better in the years to come — proving to his employer that he knows exactly what his job entails. In addition to explaining how the brand’s new modular architecture will give assembly lines much-needed flexibility, this week also had him announcing Toyota won’t dawdle anymore on getting product into consumer hands.

“I think we’re going to be quicker to market,” Lentz announced to the press at Toyota’s brand new $1 billion Texas headquarters on Thursday. “Before if you were part of the sales organization, you had your own legal team [and] HR team, so there was a lot of redundancy across the organization … we were able to streamline that and, with a lot of the headcount changes, we were able to hire more engineers to our operation in Ann Arbor, as we continue to develop vehicles here in North America, for North America.”  

While Toyota’s U.S. R&D remains fixated in Michigan, the Texas base of operations unifies thousands of employees under one massive roof that had previously been spread across the country. According to WardsAuto, Lentz claimed Toyota retained 72 percent of its workforce from California, Kentucky, and New York. Around 1,400 employees opted out of making the move.

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There is time, however, for them to change their minds. Toyota is giving employees a two-year window in which to relocate and is incentivizing employees who stay with the company in Plano, Texas as well. “I fully expect that we will have people [go], as they reach retirement age, two or three years down the road,” Lentz said. “But I really don’t expect to see what Nissan saw. That was a fairly large drop-off.”

Nissan encountered problems when it lost 60 percent of its 1,300 Los Angeles headquarters staffers and executives after relocating to Nashville in 2006. Attempting to do the same thing, Toyota has taken every precaution to avoid similar setbacks.

“I came to Nashville with only two of my product planners,” stated Larry Dominique in a 2014 interview with Automotive News, who originally relocated with Nissan North America as vice president of product planning but eventually returned to California in 2011 to become executive VP of TrueCar. “People said we’d never be able to recruit the new talent we needed to replace everyone,” Dominique recalled. “And that did take some work. But we did it. We assembled a great staff.”

Toyota achieved a much higher retention rate while using Nissan’s example as a cautionary tale. It went a little further to make the move easier on staff and is showcasing the campus’ seven office buildings as a desirable place to work. In addition to providing space to work, the Plano location also has an on-site pharmacy, physician, and 11 eating establishments. Toyota also saw fit to provide non-traditional office spaces and amenities — although it only cited microwaves and refrigerators, which we are willing to bet most offices already have.

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Toyota has hired 800 workers locally, most of which live in the Dallas area, for about 1,000 open positions. There will be 4,200 permanent employees at the new HQ, but the campus can accommodate up to 6,500, according to Lentz.

Toyota is also using the Texas locale to highlight its commitment to green technologies, claiming it possesses the largest non-utility-owned solar array in the state. While that only accounts for 30 percent of the facility’s needs, the automaker has claimed the remaining power all comes from renewable energy sources. There is also a massive rainwater collection grid to harvest 400,000 gallons of fluid to use in irrigation. But Governor Greg Abbott said water and power weren’t nearly as important as the people Texas had to offer.

“The greatest resource we have here in the Lone Star State is our highly-skilled workforce that draws global businesses like Toyota to Texas every day,” Abbott said during the HQ’s opening ceremony. “The 4,000 jobs added and Toyota’s impressive new facility are proof of the remarkable momentum of Texas’ continuing economic expansion. I am proud that Toyota is expanding here, and I thank them for their commitment to being an important part of our Texas community.”

Even though the campus opening was little more than an opportunity for Toyota executives and local dignitaries to issue corporate praise until they were blue in the face, the company has been making serious moves in 2017. Slower than its competitors to modernize, the brand has begun taking swifter steps toward electrification and updating its production facilities. It has also started putting more money into R&D and expanded its engineering operations in Michigan. Texas’ role to play is to ensure nothing holds Toyota back in putting that fruit on the market in a timely manner.

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[Images: Toyota]

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27 Comments on “Toyota CEO Promises Automaker Will Be Better, Faster, Stronger...”


  • avatar
    APaGttH

    Apparently Jim Lentz likes Daft Punk.

  • avatar
    zip89123

    Yep, they’ll do anything to sell u a car! Sell me a loaded Camry XLE hybrid or 4-cyl with NAV. Oh wait, Toyota lied. You can’t get a loaded XLE 4-cyl or hybrid with NAV.

    • 0 avatar
      Jean-Pierre Sarti

      hmmm interesting that is exactly what i have. don’t blame the manufacturers for this one, your wrath should go to the regional cabal known as distributorships. But then again i guess the manufacturer can be blamed for letting those bastards continue their nonsense.

  • avatar
    etherpuppet

    But will these vehicles be *more* grounded to the ground? Someone has to ask the hard questions around here.

  • avatar
    readallover

    Uh, no. Going to Top-down, centralized planning actually makes you slower and less responsive in manufacturing. Well, it will make their move to New York or South Carolina or wherever that much more interesting.

  • avatar
    Fred

    When we moved to Houston Texas from Oakland CA, we lost about half the workers after a year because they missed their friends and family and the weather. A couple of us retired back to California, exactly for that reason as well.

    • 0 avatar

      Oakland, The War Zone? Really? I tried to move my family as far away from Oakland as I can (I lived in Castro Valley which is pretty close to Oakland). Oakland is the last place on the Earth I would like to call my home. I know millenias likes Oakland because of its strategic location – close to both SF, Napa Valley and Silicon Valley and I can understand that, but not if you have family and kids. Despite gentrification Oakland is still the rough place to live where if you take wrong exit you may have issues.

      • 0 avatar
        Fred

        Yea Oakland! and we weren’t living in the hills. And, it’s not like Houston or many of it’s suburbs are all that safe either. Even now that I’m living in the Sierras I still see violent dysfunctional crack heads.

        • 0 avatar

          In Oakland you have to run for the hills! I can suggest good location – Palomares Hills or even Castro Valley if you want really cheap. My friend moved to Texas and he is very happy about it. He also likes Texans more says Californians are too nasty in comparison. He bought huge house (by CA Bay Area standards) for cash. Imagine that -he has no debt – he bought car also for cash and still gets CA salary.

    • 0 avatar
      Drew8MR

      The 1800 sg foot 3/2 I rent in OC has just been appraised at $850,000 despite needing an almost complete facelift. California also taxes me at a exorbitant, almost unbelievable rate. I’d just as soon set all my money on fire as retire here.

      • 0 avatar
        hpycamper

        Retired last year. Plan to relocate to So California before the end of this year. Oh No!

      • 0 avatar
        George B

        Drew8MR, the price of existing old houses gets expensive when land use restrictions prevent the construction of new houses. Here in the Dallas area, if the land exceeds the value of the house, the small old house gets torn down and replaced with a larger new house on the desirable location.

    • 0 avatar
      Jean-Pierre Sarti

      this is off topic but my friends in austin hate the californians that have moved there over the years and from what i hear the feeling is mutual.

      it’s kind of entertaining, lefty on lefty violence.

      • 0 avatar
        APaGttH

        it’s all part of the evil plan to turn Texas into a gay Muslim state run by Obama.

        Chase companies out of California that move to Texas and bring their blue voting employees with them and turn Texas Democratic.

        Mu-wa-hah-hah-hah-hah!!! The plan is working perfectly oh Master.

      • 0 avatar

        I heard few times at work coworkers suggesting to nuke Texas. I am sure they were joking but one day some crazy Californian can do something like that. There lot of crazy people in SF Bay area and esp in SF, cannot say about other parts of CA. Hatred to Texas in Bay Area is pathological, I think they teach it in school.

      • 0 avatar
        joeaverage

        I see that all the time between churches. The other guys are “doing it wrong”. Whatever…

    • 0 avatar
      joeaverage

      I hear that Firestone merged with Bridgestone and moved the headquarters to Nashville – and lost a good many engineers and management who wanted to stay in Indiana.

  • avatar
    28-Cars-Later

    We can rebuilt it. We have the technology.

  • avatar

    Toyota is a unstoppable force much like GM was in the 50s and 60s. Unlike, GM Toyota is not inflicted with short term thinking so they will be the number one car maker for the next 150 years. GM has fallen behind both Volkswagen and Nissan so there is little or no chance of them catching Toyota. For the durations of our lifetime Toyota will be top dog. I would have found that hard to believe twenty years ago, when GM still had 31% of the US market.

    It is hard to believe GM will never be number one again. The end of the GM dynasty would make a good book.

    GM losing to Toyota in US market share is just around the corner.

  • avatar
    jdmcomp

    God forbid one should ever want a Toy ordered from a spec sheet. They simply refuse to acknowledge they offer some items and tell you in no uncertain terms they never will do so. No Toy for me ever. And I do not think this will improve no matter what.

  • avatar
    George B

    Toyota chose the specific location for their corporate headquarters very well. It’s far enough north in Plano to make the commute from the newest edge suburbs north of US-380 tolerable. The ability to buy a huge brand new house in a new neighborhood with excellent schools and not spend an hour fighting traffic is the biggest amenity Toyota is offering it’s employees.

  • avatar
    Lou_BC

    “Toyota CEO Promises Automaker Will Be Better, Faster, Stronger”

    Que sound track from “The Six Million Dollar Man”.

  • avatar
    Big Al from Oz

    It good to see these higher paying Toyota jobs.

    I did read an article 3-4 years ago about the Chinese. The Chinese are using specialist design and engineering studios to design cars. The claim back then was 15 months from an idea to the first vehicles rolling off the production line.

    This is one area the “West” must tackle in competing with the Chinese. If the Chinese can produce a vehicle quicker it will have an edge on the Western vehicle manufacturers.

    Maybe the West might need to look at how we are designing vehicles. Should we have only a few design and engineering studios/complexes?

    • 0 avatar
      joeaverage

      Will the US gov’t ever let Chinese cars be sold here? I know the US isn’t the whole world of course. I’m sure Europe and Russia already allow Chinese brands to be sold there which says to me that their markets are more open and free than our’s.

      There would be a whole gaggle of sub-prime rate people who would get over any xenophobia and would buy a Chinese car if it was halfway good and cheap enough – think Kia Sephia grade cars.

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