As it prepares for its new products, factory engineers will also introduce a slew of manufacturing techniques for the 2026 EVs. Their goal is to halve the number of production processes, halve the amount of plant investment and halve the amount of production lead needed to set up for new nameplates.
The new techniques will include the use of giga casting, which eliminates the countless parts and brackets by essentially casting the vehicle’s front and back as two giant modules.
The under-rear section of the current Toyota bZ4X, for example, is an amalgam complex of 86 parts manufactured through 33 processes. But Toyota is prototyping a way to stamp the same multi-part module as a single piece from one process, thanks to the use of a giga press.
“This is overwhelmingly faster,” Yoshio Nakamura, deputy chief of global production, told Automotive News. “The point is, we will have a high level of freedom.”
Giga casting will be deployed at plants making Step 3 EVs from 2026, Nakamura said. Those cars will basically have three simplified modules, a front, a rear and a middle battery pan. The approach will improve manufacturing efficiency by 20 percent, he said. That means that with the same amount of materials and processes, Toyota will be able to make 20 percent more vehicles.
In another new approach, Toyota will eliminate anchored production lines.
The idea here is for the cars to drive themselves through the plant.
Toyota calls it self-propelled production, and the idea is already being used at the company’s Motomachi assembly plant, where the bZ4X drives itself from final assembly to final inspection.
Engineers want to extend that self-driving mode to final assembly, essentially letting the car drive to the parts, rather than bringing the parts to the car. It should slash the amount of investment because there will be no fixed conveyors or hangers hauling cars through the factory.
Doing that will allow for more compact layouts and more flexible parts storage. Nakamura predicted it could save hundreds of millions of dollars in investment and cut production time in half.
The system uses a remote-control technology, similar to that in a radio-controlled car, to move the vehicle. And because they are EVs, they can move under the power of their own batteries.
Nakamura said the overhaul of Toyota’s approach to EV manufacturing is an extension, not a repudiation, of the carmaker’s world-renowned Toyota Production System, the gold standard of lean manufacturing that is copied and applied to everything from food banks to hospital labs.
“The concept behind the Toyota Production System remains the same,” Nakamura said. “The concept is to eliminate waste and unnecessary work.”