Toyota today announced the establishment of a new North American research facility located in Ann Arbour, Michigan, which will spearhead research on advanced areas including powertrain technologies, energy systems, and partnerships with government and academia. The carmaker plans to spend $100 million during the next four years, no doubt to speed up development of technologies to reduce carbon emissions and improve fuel efficiency in light of stricter regulations set to roll in over the next decade.

The new facility will employ 35 researchers and administration staff, and there are plans in place to add 10 more researchers this year and an additional 20 by 2010. Until now, most of Toyota’s research has been handled by engineers based mostly in Japan plus several satellite locations in Australia and Germany.

A North American research institute comes as no surprise from Toyota - the carmaker has had a significant presence in the North American market for decades having established operations in North America in 1957 and currently operating 13 manufacturing plants. In fact, Toyota currently manufactures more cars in the U.S. than it does in Japan in order to combat high export costs.

On top of this, new plants are under construction in Ontario and Mississippi and once these are built Toyota will have 15 manufacturing plants with the annual capacity to build approximately 2.2 million cars and trucks, 1.49 million engines and 425,000 automatic transmissions.