News roundup: GM pushes STEM education, Toyota expands production, Ford offers Mustang logo option

News roundup: GM pushes STEM education, Toyota expands production, Ford offers Mustang logo option

GM education initiative offers support to four tech-focused charities.


Cleveland, Ohio – For the past two weeks, I’ve been out of the office on work travel and vacation, and even though most automakers are in the midst of summer retooling shutdowns, there’s been quite a bit of news. Here’s a sampling of interesting news that I missed in recent weeks.

General Motors encourages students to pursue STEM

Women and minorities make up only a fraction of working professionals in engineering and information technology (IT). In the U.S., only 18% of computer science majors and 10% of information security professionals are women. GM Chairman and CEO Mary Barra, who got her start at GM as an engineer, says that needs to change.

“We’re in the midst of transforming how our customers get from point A to point B with technology like autonomous vehicles, connectivity, electrification, and car sharing. By expanding and improving access to STEM education, we’re developing teachers’ and students’ capabilities — and it’s my hope those students become graduates who are equipped to join us in the technical fields required to lead in the future of mobility,” says Barra.

GM selected four new programs and partners to promote:

  • — CEO Hadi Partovi’s has enabled 10% of K-12 students across the world to try the site’s courses and the Hour of Code; 9 million girls are learning to code; 48% of online course participants are underrepresented minorities. GM’s support will help train 1,400 computer science teachers who will teach over 40,000 secondary students across the U.S. during the 2017-2018 school year.
  • Black Girls Code — Founded by CEO Kimberly Bryant, the group dedicated to increasing the number of women of color in technology careers. GM will help Black Girls Code expand exposure to coding and technology to underrepresented girls in the Detroit area.
  • Institute of Play — Co-Executive Directors Rebecca Rufo-Tepper and Arana Shapiro will use principles of game design to develop an 8-month professional development fellowship for middle school and high school STEM educators focused on using the power of games, play, and digital tools to transform teacher practice and student engagement.
  • Digital Promise — CEO and former educator Karen Cator created Digital Promise to accelerate innovation in education and improve opportunities to learn. GM will support a research study and development of an online micro-credential curriculum for teachers in computational thinking.

Toyota opens North American headquarters in Texas, begins 2018 Camry production

Toyota announced plans three years ago to shut down its California offices and move sales and management functions from there to Plano, Texas (near Dallas), and move manufacturing management from Erlanger, Kentucky (near Cincinnati, Ohio), to the same Texas facility.

The company has invested about $1 billion on the 100-acre campus. Occupancy began in late spring, and an average of a couple hundred team members per week are moving in, which is expected to continue in phases through December.

The company will have jobs for up to 4,000 Toyota team members in Plano. Among the seven buildings is a large central courtyard. Exterior landscaping reflects the native habitat, with drought resistant plants; a 8.79MW array of more than 20,000 solar panels powers the facility, and electricity not generated by the solar panels will come from wind generated by Texas farms; a rainwater harvesting system will store up to 400,000 gallons.

While people move into new offices in Texas, new Camry sedans are coming off the assembly line in Georgetown, Kentucky.

The automaker is pitching the new Camry, the best-selling car in the U.S. for more than a decade, as a sportier, hipper version of the family car. The updated Camry will used Toyota’s New Global Architecture (TNGA) – a new strategy for designing, engineering, and manufacturing vehicles.

The next-generation Camry has a lower center of gravity and a more rigid body. Engineers incorporated noise, vibration and harshness (NVH) countermeasures that were previously found exclusively on luxury models such as sound-absorbing insulation in the hood and upper and lower fender separator, as well as foam/vibration dampening materials throughout the vehicle.

Toyota Motor Manufacturing Kentucky (TMMK) recently hired more than 700 people to support the launch of the new Camry, bringing the number of team members to an all-time high of over 8,000. The largest Toyota plant in the world, TMMK has produced more than 11 million vehicles in its 31 years, including more than 8 million Camrys.

Earlier this year, Toyota announced a $1.33 billion investment at TMMK for TNGA improvements and other makeovers that will modernize and streamline the production process.

Ford draws a box around its Mustang logo

You know that pony logo on the front of Ford Mustangs? Typically, it sits along in the middle of the car’s grille. But several times throughout the vehicle’s history, Ford has thrown a bit of extra chrome on the front of the car, putting a “corral” around the horse by drawing a box around the logo.

A special appearance package for 2018 Mustang’s with EcoBoost turbocharge engines will also get the corral treatment.

The badge design first appeared on Mustang in the mid-1960s when the car was still in concept phase. It has appeared in various forms since, and was last used as part of an anniversary package for 2015.

The Pony Package also includes:

  • 19” polished aluminum wheels
  • Bright beltline and window trim for fastback model
  • Premium carpeted floor mats with Ebony embroidered pony logo
  • Side stripes on lower body sides
  • Tri-bar pony badge on rear decklid appliqué

The 2018 Mustang is due in showrooms this October.

About the author: Robert Schoenberger is the editor of Today's Motor Vehicles and a contributor to Today's Medical Developments and Aerospace Manufacturing and Design. He has written about the automotive industry for more than 17 years at The Plain Dealer in Cleveland, Ohio; The Courier-Journal in Louisville, Kentucky; and The Clarion-Ledger in Jackson, Mississippi.