From Intern To Boss: Rob McConnell Designs Toyota’s 2013 Avalon

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    Like most boys growing up, Rob McConnell enjoyed making a mess of things.

    “When I was young, I played a lot with Legos, taking things a part, putting things together,” said the Lansing, MI native. “Hot wheels, Matchbox, I was always just excited about cars,”

    McConnell, who admits to being exceptional in the maths and sciences, took his love for cars all the way to the University of Michigan where he majored in mechanical engineering.

    While in school, he didn’t venture too far off from his fascination. His first job was working at a local dealership as a shuttle van driver. When he began looking for an internship, McConnell stayed in the automotive lane and began interning at the Toyota Technical Center which, like U of M, also in Ann Arbor, MI.

    After graduation in 2001, McConnell stayed with the company and began his tenure in Toyota’s body design department, a unit the 34-year-old now leads.

    “I’ve been with Toyota all my professional career. Our department is unique because we have a lot of young people here. On a typical day, you would see me and my team all with our headphones on, rocking out to The Roots or Common, getting inspired…”

    Kaizen, Toyota’s much heralded corporate philosophy of “continuous improvement,” has guided McConnell’s career. His team has had a lead in seven different Toyota vehicles in his time including the Solara, Venza & Tundra, but the Avalon was the first car Toyota’s leadership allowed to be designed and built outside of Japan.

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