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Wednesday, July 27, 2016

Toyota Gets a Kick Out of US Youth Soccer

With the news of the Sigi Schmidt and the Seattle Sounders parting ways, here is some happier soccer news!

Toyota is partnering with US Youth Soccer to celebrate the achievements and participation of all youth soccer athletes and coaches at the 2016 US Youth Soccer National Championship in Frisco, Texas, July 26–28. Toyota is also the official automobile of US Youth Soccer.
On-site activities at the National Championship will highlight Toyota Sienna and Highlander through a series of interactive areas that make up the “Let’s Go Play Zone.”  Athletes and their families can test their skills on a customized soccer obstacle course for prizes, share a unique photo on social media, and learn more about the vehicles.
The “Let’s Go Play Zone” has been featured at all four US Youth Soccer National Championship Series regional championships, providing Toyota with an opportunity to engage with soccer enthusiasts who travel a lot in support of their favorite club team.
In addition to the activities, Toyota will be hosting players from FC Dallas in the “Let’s Go Play Zone” to engage with fans and sign autographs this week during the National Championship event. 
“Toyota has always enjoyed a strong commitment to families in the communities in which we work and play,” says Cooper Ericksen, vice president, Vehicle Marketing and Communications for Toyota Motor Sales, U.S.A. “When presented with this unique opportunity to partner with U.S Youth Soccer in our soon-to-be backyard, and given that Toyota already enjoys a strong partnership with FC Dallas and Toyota Stadium, we saw this as an ideal way to support the needs of some of the best youth soccer players in the country and their families.”
"We recognize the countless hours dedicated parents and coaches spend on the road with their youth soccer players each year," US Youth Soccer CEO Chris Moore said, "and we’re proud to partner with Toyota as the Official Automobile of US Youth Soccer."
The partnership between Toyota and US Youth Soccer was created and is being managed by Paragon Marketing Group, LLC.
The Toyota Let’s Go Play Zone activities scheduled for July 26 – 28 include:

  • FC Dallas Player Appearances: FC Dallas Players will make appearances at the Let’s Go Play Zone each day to sign autographs.  Follow Toyota on Facebook and Twitter to verify exact times.
  • Obstacle Course: An interactive skills competition consisting of three (3) soccer related activities—dribbling, target passing and shooting on goal. Participants will be timed as they complete the entire course. Athletes will be divided into groups based on gender and age. Athletes with the fastest time from each group at the end of each day will win a prize.
  • Vehicle “Photo Booth”: Participants have the opportunity to climb in a Sienna or Highlander to take a group photo with their teammates and families to commemorate the National Championships. The photos will be instantly available for sharing via Twitter, Facebook, or email.
  • Vehicle Education:  Toyota will showcase the new 2017 Sienna and Highlanders, along with a few additional special edition vehicles.

Tuesday, July 26, 2016

Engineers of Tomorrow: Toyota Helps Michigan Science Center ‘Catch ‘Em All’

$1.44 Million Donation to Renovate Theater, Increase Reach of STEM Education

Inspiring today’s students to become tomorrow’s science and engineering leaders is something Toyota believes is critical to society. Whether it’s autonomous cars, flying cars or something that has yet to be envisioned, the future of mobility depends on sparking children’s interests in engineering and science careers.

Likewise, as the region continues to face a shortage of STEM professionals, it is important to expose children to the different opportunities and career choices available to them. In support of creating that next generation of STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) professionals, Toyota has donated $1.44 million to Michigan Science Center (MiSci) located in Midtown Detroit. This donation is the latest of many efforts by Toyota to promote and expand STEM education initiatives.

“It’s critical to foster innovative thinking at a young age,” said Toyota Technical Center Senior Vice President Jeff Makarewicz. “Developing that interest early on can create great opportunities not only for students, but for the industry as well. We’re excited to make this donation, and for our continued partnership with the Michigan Science Center.”

The donation will be used to transform and upgrade the Toyota Engineering Theatre (TET). The TET is a unique, 4D multi-media experience that engages visitors with the transformative, dynamic and exciting world of engineers and engineering.

Since MiSci’s opening in 2012, the TET has hosted more than 94,000 students, families and curious minds of all ages. In the past 8 years however, engineering has changed and the STEM sector has continued to grow. With Toyota’s support, MiSci will be able to meet these new demands and upgrade the theater’s technology, creating a more robust experience. The upgrades will include a state-of-the-art HD projection system with 3D viewing capabilities; enhanced space and lighting for a more immersive experience, and the creation of universally designed videos that play in 4D theaters and standard digital media players.

The funding will also help MiSci expand its ability to foster STEM education by developing all-new programming and educational connected learning initiatives for both teachers and students.

“Toyota’s donation allows the Science Center to do more than just upgrade the TET. This is an opportunity for us to present STEM in a relatable and relevant way, while increasing student interest in STEM careers,” said Tonya Matthews, Michigan Science Center president and CEO. “This opportunity allows us to continue our mission of being a premier institute for STEM learning and experiences in Michigan.”

The Toyota Engineering Theatre and connected learning programs are designed to combat common misconceptions surrounding engineering by portraying engineering and the world of science and math in a fun, dynamic way.

Saturday, July 23, 2016

WWF and Toyota Form Global Partnership, Join Forces on Living Asian Forest Project and Climate Change

WWF and Toyota Motor Corporation have entered into a five-year agreement aimed at accelerating the globe's transition to sustainability. Through this partnership, the organizations will work together to promote biodiversity conservation, raise environmental awareness and accelerate the move toward a "zero carbon" society.

Toyota is the first car company and the first Japanese company to sign a Global Corporate Partnership agreement with WWF. The agreement went into effect on July 1, 2016.

As part of the partnership, Toyota will support the Living Asian Forest Project, a new series of existing and planned WWF activities to conserve tropical forests and wildlife in Southeast Asia. The project will take place in WWF priority places Borneo (Kalimantan) and Sumatra in Indonesia. In the future, the project will expand to the Greater Mekong region.

The project will also focus on increasing the sustainability of natural resources such as wood, paper and pulp, palm oil and natural rubber. Unsustainable production and use of these commodities are among the main causes of deforestation and increased threats to endangered species in these regions.

Toyota will donate US$1 million to the Living Asian Forest Project in 2016 and will continue its support for a total of five years. The support strengthens efforts toward achieving the Toyota Environmental Challenge 2050 goals of aiming to reduce Toyota's environmental footprint to zero, while creating value and producing benefit to society in the face of global-scale environmental issues. The Living Asian Forest Project will specifically help accomplish one of the six challenges: to establish a future society in harmony with nature.

With demand expected to rise for natural rubber?the main resource for car tires?the partnership recognizes that the sustainable production and use of natural rubber is required for forest ecosystem conservation. Toyota acknowledges the environmental and social challenges surrounding natural rubber, and will collaborate with industries and stakeholders to contribute to international standard-setting as well as other related activities that WWF promotes.

Throughout the partnership, WWF and Toyota will also work together to help realize a zero carbon society. In order to successfully meet the company's Zero CO2 Emissions Challenges under its Toyota Environmental Challenge 2050, Toyota has already joined the Science Based Targets initiative that is aimed at helping companies combat climate change.

Didier Leroy, Executive Vice President of Toyota, said: "We share the same vision as WWF: to achieve a truly sustainable society and leave a living planet for future generations. When we started working on concrete actions to achieve our Environmental Challenge 2050, we decided that joining forces with non-governmental organizations which are experts in their field was essential. Our partnership, and projects like the Living Asian Forest Project, are among the most effective ways for a company like ours to make a positive impact and raise awareness among our employees, suppliers, and customers of the importance of sustainable resource management."

Marco Lambertini, Director General of WWF International, said: "WWF is delighted to join forces with Toyota in order to accelerate efforts needed to prevent the dangerous degradation of the natural systems we all depend on. Science has never been clearer and awareness of the problems and solutions to the many environmental challenges that the world is facing has never been greater. We need more private sector organizations like Toyota to step up and find solutions to these challenges. WWF commends Toyota's vision to help make a safer, healthier more sustainable world a reality for future generations and our living planet."

Arnold Sitompul, Conservation Director of WWF Indonesia, said: "One of the exciting outcomes of this partnership will be the strengthening of our work to conserve tropical forest ecosystems in Kalimantan and Sumatra. These are important homes for critically endangered species, and essential proving grounds for the sustainable management of natural resources."

Thursday, July 21, 2016

Making the Grade: 2017 4Runner TRD Off-Road Joins TRD Line-Up

  • New TRD Off-Road Premium Tops New Trim
  • Two New Grades Make Debut at 10th Annual FJ Summit in Ouray, Colorado

Adding to its impressive off-road credibility, the 2017 4Runner will be available in two new grades -- TRD Off-Road and TRD Off-Road Premium. Both grades offer distinctive TRD (Toyota Racing Development) branding to stand out anywhere a 4Runner can travel.

Since its introduction in 1984, the 4Runner’s body-on-frame architecture has enabled the SUV to traverse challenging terrain while comfortably transporting people and all the gear they need for their adventures.

For four decades, TRD has been racing off-road and that heritage is reflected in these new grades. The exterior of the TRD Off-Road 4Runner features black painted wheels and a unique TRD Off-Road badge on the C-pillar. Inside, the center console has a carbon fiber look and the floor mats feature the TRD Off-Road designation. The TRD Off-Road Premium 4Runner also adds “TRD” red lettering on the headrests for the driver and front passenger.

Under the rugged exterior of the Off-Road and Off-Road Premium grades, advanced capability is built into the 4Runner, including the Multi-Terrain Select system which allows the driver to use a dial to select the mode that matches prevailing terrain and conditions, adjusting wheel slip accordingly. The 4Runner lives up to its name with an electronic-locking rear differential and Toyota’s Crawl Control (CRAWL) feature. The latter helps maintain a constant speed, enhancing vehicle control when driving up and over obstacles in challenging off-road situations. With the transfer case shifted into low range, CRAWL regulates both engine speed and braking force to propel the vehicle forward or in reverse at one of the five driver-selectable low-speed settings. The driver can thus focus on steering over obstacles without having to also modulate the throttle or brake pedal.

Further off-road credentials include superior approach and departure angles, high ground clearance and available suspension upgrades. The available Kinetic Dynamic Suspension System (KDSS) facilitates extended wheel travel at slow speeds for greater off-road capability and stability. For example, on loose terrain such as mud and sand, more-than-normal wheel slip is permitted, allowing wheel-spin to work in the vehicle’s favor. The Mogul setting is for any extremely uneven terrain, such as V-ditches, slopes, and ridges -- uphill or down. In this mode, wheel slip is minimized and the system acts more like a limited slip differential.

“The 4Runner has a large and loyal following, with dependability being a key factor. Of all the 4Runners purchased in the last ten years, 90 percent are still on the road,” said John Myers, national manager, trucks and SUVs, Toyota Vehicle Marketing and Communications. “4Runner owners often take their SUVs off the beaten path, so these new TRD Off-Road grades will be a popular recognition of TRD’s history in the off-road arena.”

The 2017 4Runner will be available in six grades: SR5, SR5 Premium, TRD Off-Road, TRD Off-Road Premium, Limited, and TRD Pro. Pricing for all grades will be available prior to the 4Runner’s launch later this year.   

Monday, July 18, 2016


A Chat with TMMI Chief Norm Bafunno
You can call him the Sultan of Sequoia, the Head Honcho of Highlander, the Sire of the Sienna, but Toyota Motor Manufacturing, Indiana President Norm Bafunno has no problem talking sports, family and misfiring a few thousand emails.

First, sports play a big role in guiding Bafunno (He loved the “win as a team” aspect of high school football, and his favorite book is written by famed Indianapolis Colts coach Tony Dungy). Second, Bafunno brings to work an optimistic, upbeat attitude infectious to those around him.

So, as he leads more than 6,000 team members at the plant that makes Highlander, Highlander Hybrid, Sienna and Sequoia, Bafunno makes a point to take a hands-on role in day-to-day operations.

How do you approach your role as a leader of 6,000 people?
Everything starts with spending the appropriate amount of time doing the go-and-see and visiting people in their actual workplace setting. It is so easy, the larger a company gets, to spend time away from the real activity. I try to actually schedule time to just go out and look at current activity as often as possible.

For me it is very important to get a real feel for what’s going on. People make all kinds of effort every day, so I want to do my best to get out there and acknowledge their hard work. Some things you can’t even see day-to-day by walking down an aisle. But when you talk to somebody about the change they made in the way their tool operates, or a maintenance team member who has a new software fix for a cycle-time reduction on a robot, you see it really makes a big difference.

How did you get interested in engineering?
In high school, I was a math, physics, science type person. Most importantly, my grandfather was an engineer and one of the smartest men I have ever been around. He could do anything. Everybody in the family asked him to fix just about anything that would break. But what really motivated me was his ability to simplify very complex pieces of equipment to make them understandable. Whether it is fixing a car, a lawn mower or washing machine, he had the ability to not only do things but to share how he did each task. That was very encouraging and really piqued my interest in engineering.

I would come home after college finals and my grandfather would ask me if I had a copy of my calculus exam. And I’d be like, “Uh, no, but I can see if I can get one.” He wanted to take my final. He was a great example of continuous learning, and he just tried to make it simple. So many times people try to present things in such complex ways. He had a way of simplifying it to a point of really engaging other people.
Tell me a little bit about your life at home.
Family is a huge priority in my life. I have three children that are all grown. My wife, Julie, and I spend quite a bit of time between three cities where they live helping with whatever we can or just visiting. Those moments to me are the most important. Getting our family together, spending time relaxing and catching up with everyone is priceless, but finding the time is difficult. We look at work/life balance at our company, but I don’t think there’s any way to justify time away from your spouse or children. The key is to maximize the time together.

What event in your life has meant the most to your current success?
Flexibility. Reflecting on my career, I have rotated around to six or seven major assignments over the past 30 plus years. Rotating from an area early in my career where I felt very comfortable to a whole new job in a completely new state. It took me way out of my comfort zone. I wondered if I would be able to apply the knowledge I attained to this completely new environment. Looking back, working in that kind of situation allowed me to grow. I was able to apply that knowledge in another workplace and it built my confidence. These experiences introduced me to so many talented people, creating a great opportunity to learn. Those were the experiences necessary to build the skills that have allowed me to make positive contributions in my leadership role today.

What’s your most embarrassing professional experience?
I have a pretty good one. I was in about my third year at General Motors, and I was working in our controls engineering area. I was testing a brand new laptop, and I was sending a test email to a counterpart in Canada. And I basically just put “this is a test of the system. Let me know if you receive. Norm.”

Well, when I hit the return key, there was a wildcard asterisk recorded in the “to,” “cc” and “bcc” fields that was not visible. When I hit the send button, I sent this email to everybody who had an email address at General Motors. And, I cc’d and bcc’d everybody at General Motors too. I just about shut down the entire email system for a day. Suddenly, I had these computer guys coming up to me saying, “I’d like to talk to Norm Bafunno.” I got hundreds of emails saying, “Norm, I received your email. Thanks.”

What is the biggest challenge you face in your current job?
First, how do we continue to innovate at a very rapid pace? This team at Indiana has earned an outstanding reputation for vehicle quality. But we can never sit still. Our competition is very good, and the need for innovation continues year after year.

And second, how do we evolve as a high-performing company generationally. We have a lot of baby boomers in the plant, but now Gen X and Millennials are the largest groups. So how do we all work together? How do we communicate in an effective way? It’s super important to make sure everyone feels comfortable as demographics change. Going back 10 or 15 years, a majority of our team members were baby boomers, but our younger workers are going to carry the torch for the next 20 years after the older generation is gone.

What’s one thing you do on a regular basis that people might find odd or surprising?
I stop and get a frozen Coke everywhere I can. I love frozen Cokes. If I’m driving somewhere and I see a place, I always pull in to check out their version.

So you’re the guy at the Slurpee machine holding everyone up, eh?
I love Slurpees. Are you kidding me? For Christmas one year, my nephews got me this 128-ounce guitar-shaped mug that you can fill up. I don’t know where they found it, but I’m sure when they saw it they said, “Uncle Norm’s gotta have this.” It was great. So what do I do? I go to 7-Eleven to fill it up.

How many frozen Cokes a week are we talking?
I would say 4-5 a week if the timing is right.

Over the course of your career, what’s the best advice you’ve received?
Just do everything to the best of your ability. No matter what the project may be, work on it as if it is the most important project that you could do. When you work on a project to the best of your ability, you will learn a lot about the subject matter. And that foundation of small project after small project gives you an incredible foundation for your career.

Why do you love working at TMMI and what we should know about it.
First and foremost, the performance of the plant is at a very high level. It has earned a reputation through the years for consistency and innovation. There is an incredible sense of ownership by the people who work here. If I look at the team members building our product every day, plus the new team members coming on board, I see a real thought process that they can make a difference, and I am going to make a difference, and I can make this place better and I can help other people be successful. There is truly an environment in Indiana that is inviting and receptive to all people.

Saturday, July 16, 2016

Toyota Leads Auto Industry in Innovation, Again!

No other automaker can match the number of patents issued to Toyota in 2015

Whether it’s creating artificial skin for pedestrian safety mannequins, helping autonomous vehicles detect and safely react to emergency vehicles or fabrics that clean themselves, Toyota leads the way in anticipating and engineering the cars of tomorrow for today.

This is the second consecutive year the United States Patent and Trademark Office has issued more patents to Toyota’s innovative designers and engineers than to any other automaker. This achievement is according to a recently released publication by the Intellectual Property Owners Association (IPO).  In 2015, Toyota received 1,636 patents and over the last eight years has been awarded more patents than any other automotive company. This achievement illustrates the company’s commitment to ever better cars that achieve greater safety, environmental and technological advancements.

“As companies in the automotive industry transform themselves into broader mobility providers, no auto company better demonstrates innovation and technology for the future than Toyota,” said Jeff Makarewicz, senior vice president, Toyota Technical Center (TTC), Toyota’s North American research & development headquarters.  “We’re focused on delivering great experiences for our customers, a cornerstone of Toyota’s product commitment, and this recognition is proof we’re living up to that promise.” 

Toyota is the only automaker listed among the top 20 on the IPO list. Other key innovators in the top 20 include Apple, Google, IBM and Microsoft.

Toyota’s industry-leading patent numbers illustrate the company’s increasing success as global auto leader, but also as one of the world’s leading innovators.

Wednesday, June 29, 2016

Batter Up: Toyota Spotlights Youth Programs at Annual Congressional Baseball Game

Toyota Awards New Corolla to Boys & Girls Clubs of America’s National Youth of the Year

Toyota Financial Services and Girl Scouts of the USA Highlight Importance of Financial Education

The House and Senate sent their best aces and sluggers to the baseball diamond Thursday – swinging their bats, flashing some leather and tearing around the bases at the annual Congressional Baseball Game.

When the dust finally settled, the Republicans took the game from the Democrats with a score of 8-7. But it was Boys & Girls Clubs of America and the Girl Scouts of the USA who were the real winners, thanks in part to Toyota.

“Toyota is thrilled to support this year’s Congressional Baseball Game with our friends from Boys & Girls Clubs of America and the Girl Scouts of the USA, two organizations with which we share a common commitment to helping our nation’s youth become tomorrow’s leaders,” said Al Smith, Group Vice President, Service Operations & Corporate Planning, Toyota Financial Services. “To enjoy the excitement of the game while celebrating the successes of such promising young people – it’s truly special.” 
Boys & Girls Clubs of America National Youth of the Year and Toyota
Toyota awarded a new Corolla and $5,000 to cover expenses associated with car ownership to Boys & Girls Clubs of America’s 2015-16 National Youth of the Year, Whitney Stewart as part of Toyota’s multi-year partnership in support of the youth leadership program. 

Stewart, who is from Sarasota, Fla., was selected for her service and leadership in her community, academic excellence and dedication to living a healthy lifestyle. While in high school, she attained the rank of Junior R.O.T.C. Regimental Commander, her school’s top leadership position, and started SEED to SOIL, an educational club which focuses on healthy lifestyles and sustainable agriculture. Stewart recently completed her freshman year at the University of Pennsylvania, where she is majoring in political science with a minor in economics, and has plans to become an attorney in the Air Force, followed by a career in politics and academia.

“As the National Youth of the Year, I am proud to represent the nearly four million kids and teens who are part of Boys & Girls Clubs across the country,” said Stewart. “Thanks to Toyota’s support of the Youth of the Year program, I’ve received scholarships that have made my college dream a reality. Now, I am especially excited to drive my new Toyota Corolla!”

“With the generous support of partners like Toyota, we’re able to provide Boys & Girls Clubs youth with opportunities they may not otherwise have,” said Julie Teer, Chief Development & Public Affairs Officer of Boys & Girls Clubs of America. “The Youth of the Year program positively impacts thousands of incredible kids and teens, like Whitney, to help build leadership skills and put them on the path to a great future.”

Toyota is the Signature Sponsor of Boys & Girls Clubs of America’s Youth of the Year program, and this is the sixth year that the company has donated a new Corolla to the national winner. Learn more at
Girl Scouts of the USA and Toyota Financial Services (TFS)
TFS’s Al Smith joined Lynn Gangone, a member of Girl Scouts of the USA National Board of Directors and local Girl Scouts from the Girl Scouts Nation’s Capital council at home plate to talk about the importance of financial literacy and their partnership in developing “Driving My Financial Future,” a multi-year initiative to make financial education accessible to tens of thousands of Girl Scouts nationwide. Learn more at this link.

“Girl Scouts of the USA (GSUSA) greatly appreciates and values the generous financial support of Toyota Financial Services (TFS), which enables us to extend the reach of its financial literacy programming to 26,000 underserved girls across the country,” said Gangone. “Through the ‘Driving My Financial Future’ program, GSUSA and TFS provide girls with knowledge, tools and resources to raise their confidence in financial decision-making and to build their financial skills.”
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