What can car-buyers expect to get from Toyota’s $1 billion investment in its new headquarters complex in Plano, Texas?  Better vehicles delivered to the market faster, according to Jim Lentz, CEO of Toyota in North America. In the midst of celebrating the official opening of its innovative headquarters, Lentz told us that speed to market is becoming ever more important to vehicle manufacturers as consumer tastes shift rapidly, so the collaborative culture being established by combining quality engineering, sales, marketing, financial services, manufacturing and corporate functions can be a critical difference between success and failure.

”We look at success as how well we are able to take care of customers,” Lentz told a jammed press conference on the day of the grand opening.  “It [the combined functions] gives us a way to look at mobility in a different manner.”

The $1 billion headquarters facility is a key portion of Toyota’s $10 billion, five-year plan to invest in the United States, an effort that received kudos from President Donald J. Trump as the grand opening unfolded.  Lentz said Toyota will invest $3 billion in upgrading and refitting its North American manufacturing plants, while another $1 billion will be invested in U.S.-based research into artificial intelligence, a key enabler of autonomous vehicles.  The multi-building Texas campus, which will house some 4,200 employees, is flexible to allow for future expansion, and almost 50 percent of its interior space is collaborative versus just 10-15 percent in Toyota’s previous sales headquarters in Torrance, California.  That campus is currently up for sale.

Major milestone

Lentz noted that the new facility is a milestone on Toyota’s 60-year journey in the United States from a relatively obscure vehicle importer to a major U.S. manufacturer and marketer of vehicles.  This year more than 70 percent of the vehicles Toyota will sell will be built in North America by 36,000 workers.  In addition, Toyota says another 136,000 North American workers are employed by dealers, vendors and closely associated companies. 

Lentz told the press conference attendees the “One Toyota” initiative, begun three years ago, sprang from a desire to better serve the North American market. His vision, he said, was “to bring all the affiliated companies together for the first time.” This effort, he continued, is designed to enable Toyota employees to “respond better, collaborate better and satisfy customers better.”

Within a 36-month period, the company engaged with designers and builders who began the project by first spending several months to gain an understanding of the Toyota ethos. Then the project was fast-tracked on a 100-acre site in Plano while at the same time moving thousands of team members and their families from California, Kentucky and other locations to North Texas. Even as the Grand Opening was taking place some Toyota employees were starting their first day at the new facility.  Occupancy began in late spring, and an average of a couple hundred team members per week are moving in.  The move is expected to be completed in December.

New jobs for Texas

“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,” said Texas Governor Greg Abbott, who spoke at the grand opening ceremony. “The 4,000 jobs added and Toyota’s impressive new facility are proof of the remarkable momentum of Texas’ continuing economic expansion.”

The facility demonstrates Toyota’s commitment to sustainability.  It is on track to achieve LEED Platinum certification from the U.S. Green Building Council with features like the largest array of solar panels from a non-utility in Texas, part of a commitment to use only renewable energy. 


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