Toyota trims the number of parts in a vehicle, increases common components across models

Article by Anita Panait, on June 18, 2013

Toyota Motor Corp. continues to trim the number of parts in a vehicle while increasing common components across models, a critical part of President Akio Toyoda plan to save cost at the carmaker.  One proof of this is the carmaker’s latest decision that 10 kinds of airbags are enough to protect drivers' knees, instead of 50.

According to Toyota, its move to trim number of parts and increase common components will allow it to the time and cost for creating new models by up to 30 percent.

The carmaker incurred around $9.6 billion in auto research and development expenses in fiscal year 2012, according to data compiled by Bloomberg. Parts manufacturers like Denso Corp., Johnson Controls Inc., Robert Bosch GmbH and TRW Automotive Holdings Corp., are hoping that Toyoda's campaign will allow them to grab win contracts presently held by smaller Japanese companies.

Masahiro Akita, an analyst with Credit Suisse told Bloomberg that Toyoda’s plan should mean more opportunities for mega-suppliers with global capacity and design expertise. Johnson Controls, which produces seats and batteries for vehicles, announced that it is opening a JPY3.5 billion ($35 million) testing center in Yokohama in October 2013 to cater to growing sales.

Toyota, however, is not among Johnson's three largest customers, according to data compiled by Bloomberg. Toyota had concentrated on developing custom parts. It needed 50 types of knee-level airbags since seats for different models had different profiles. However, by standardizing "hip heights" across models, Toyota says it can cut knee airbag variants by 80 percent. [source: automotive news - sub. required]

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