Opinion: Toyota is committed to the U.S. — not a security threat
For over 40 years, Toyota’s North American Research and Development centers have been the driving force behind our U.S. manufacturing operations.
Headquartered in southeast Michigan, our Ann Arbor and Saline centers employ more than 1,800 team members and represent an investment of more than $10 billion.
Despite our long track record of R&D in the U.S., the White House recently issued a proclamation that Toyota and other international automakers’ contributions to the U.S. economy are a “threat to national security.” In an effort to justify support for tariffs on imported parts and vehicles, the administration claims that a “lag in R&D expenditures by American-owned producers” is weakening innovation and can be “improved by reducing imports.”
The administration has given trade representatives until Nov. 14 to negotiate trade agreements with certain countries, including Japan. If an agreement is not reached within that time, the president will be able to impose tariffs on imported vehicles and vehicle parts. If implemented, these tariffs will drive up prices, and negatively impact sales, investment and jobs — not just for Toyota, but across the industry.
The efforts of our U.S.-based researchers, designers and engineers should be lauded, not discounted or discredited. Our researchers are making breakthroughs and developing new technologies for the next generation of vehicles that will be driven by American consumers. We are proud of what they do and the contributions they are making to both the economy and the American auto industry. They are not a national security threat.
In fact, Toyota is a leader in U.S.-based R&D investment and innovation, leading the auto industry in the number of US patents granted for the past five years, particularly in the areas of connected vehicle systems, autonomous vehicles, active and passive safety systems and other advanced mobility technologies as described in the Intellectual Property Owners Association’s annual report.
Far from weakening innovation, we have shared our R&D by granting royalty-free licenses to over 24,000 of our patents in critical technologies, such as fuel cells and hybrid electrification. We have also participated in important research collaborations with other automakers, automotive suppliers, universities, hospitals and national laboratories in the U.S. on new and emerging technologies.
Work at our R&D centers is complemented by research at our other U.S.-based research facilities. Three years ago, the Toyota Research Institute was established in Michigan, California, and Massachusetts with a $1 billion investment to focus on automated vehicles and robotics. Toyota’s Calty Design Research, headquartered in California, with a production design facility in Ann Arbor has contributed to the design of 35 production models — from Celica to Prius to Avalon — and has helped to create 20 cutting-edge concept vehicles. These research centers provide high paying jobs and more importantly, help Toyota and the industry produce safer and more environmentally-friendly vehicles.
Toyota has over a 60-year history in the U.S. Between our R&D activities, 10 manufacturing plants, 1,500 dealers, our extensive supply chain and other operations, we directly and indirectly employ over 475,000 Americans in this great country. To date, Toyota has contributed more than $1 billion to American nonprofit groups.
We remain hopeful that the upcoming negotiations on trade can be resolved quickly and yield what is best for American consumers, workers and the auto industry. Our contribution and commitment to the future of the U.S. should neither be in doubt nor viewed as a national security threat.
Jeff Makarewicz is Toyota Group vice president of Vehicle, Quality & Safety Engineering at the Toyota Motor North America Research & Development center based in Ann Arbor.