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Toyota Shows Innovations In Production Methods

YURI KAGEYAMA

TOYOTA, Japan (AP) â¿¿ Toyota says it is putting renewed focus on innovation in production methods and design after getting a wake-up call from its massive recalls.

A highly flexible assembly line that can grow or shrink over a weekend to adjust to demand was among the innovations Toyota Motor Corp. showed Tuesday in production technology.

It also highlighted special stamping that allows car doors to be carved into molded shapes and instantaneous laser-welding that adds to the stability of luxury models.

Toyota had a stellar reputation for quality until massive recalls that began in 2008.

Executive Vice President Atsushi Niimi said the recall fiasco showed that Toyota had neglected improvements in production while pursuing growth.

"When production plunged, we could see big-scale production was a burden," he said. "We needed an assembly line that could respond to the ups and downs of production needs."

Niimi and other Toyota officials said requirements for models are changing so quickly, and emissions improvements in engines coming so fast, that lines have must adjust frequently to minor parts changes.

Reporters were given a tour of auto plant anatomy never shown to the public at Motomachi factory in the city named after Japan's No. 1 automaker. No photography was allowed. But visitors were given demonstrations of motorized stamping that was faster and quieter, and adjustable casting and welding methods that had been made simpler to cut costs, save time and be kinder to the environment.

Instead of cars hanging from above, as in most car plants, Toyota showed cars moving along assembly lines on stands with wheels. That meant the line could be changed more quickly, company officials said.

Tsuyoshi Mochimaru, auto analyst with Mitsubishi UFJ Morgan Stanley Securities, who took part in the tour, said he was impressed with some of the demonstrations. He said Toyota faces intensifying competition from the resurgent American automakers such as General Motors Co. and Ford Motor Co. as well as from South Korea's Hyundai.

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