Is Toyota the Most Inventive Automaker in the U.S.?


In a recently-released survey by the Intellectual Property Owners Association, the United States Patent and Trademark Office issued Toyota Motor Corp.’s (NYSE:TM) designers and engineers more patents than any other automaker. The 1,491 patents are related to everything from innovative environmental technology to safety advancements.

Kristin Tabar, vice president of electrical systems engineering, says that Toyota is “driven to listen to our customers and develop new ways to improve their experience” and believes that “innovation… [is] a cornerstone of Toyota’s success.” Toyota received thirty percent more patents in 2012 than in 2011.

Once a year, The Toyota Technical Center in Ann Arbor and Saline, Michigan, holds a patent awards ceremony to honor the previous year’s patent recipients. Minjuan Zhang, manager of Toyota Research Institute NA, and Charan Lota, manager of electronic systems at Toyota Technical Center, each received their twentieth patent. ”Everyone here is passionate about improving the customer’s experience and it shows in the product,” Zhang says. ”Toyota is a great place to be an inventor.”

“You can tell a lot about a company by the new ideas they generate,” Lota said.  “And, what these patents show about Toyota is that we are never going to stop trying to make better cars.”

Toyota’s increased focus on innovation might stem from their new strategy of quality over quantity. After the damaging recall crisis from 2009 to 2010, the company’s president Akio Toyoda encouraged a return to the company’s traditional focus on quality vehicles rather than aggressive sales expansion — a strategy which likely got them into the recall fiasco in the first place.

Toyoda is committed to resetting Toyota’s slate by focusing on what his grandfather established with the company’s founding: quality.

With the help of Jim Lentz, whom Toyoda recently named CEO of Toyota North America — the first ever American to hold the role — the automobile company appears to be in good shape moving forward as they attempt to bring Toyota back to its roots.

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