DETROIT – When Toyota Motor Corp. begins producing its fullsize Tundra pickups deep in the heart of Texas in 2006, its 5-speed automatic transmission will come from Aisin AW Co. Ltd.’s new plant in Durham, NC.

The new plant represents the first time the Japanese-based Aisin, a major transmission player in its home market, has produced automatic transmissions outside Japan, says Junichi Nishimura, president of Aisin World Corp. of America.

Toyota Tundra will receive its automatic transmission from North Carolina when vehicle production moves to Texas.

The supplier discussed its transmission, brake, body-control and driver-information products in a press conference here at the recent Society of Automotive Engineers World Congress.

The capacity for the new North Carolina plant is pegged at 400,000 units annually, although the company says the initial production run to support the Tundra in 2006 is slated for 300,000 units.

That production forecast has been upgraded from a year ago, when Nishimura said the plant would produce 200,000 transmissions in its first year of production.

Although dealership-ready Tundras won’t be produced until 2006, the plant will begin pilot production this May.

Aisin built the North Carolina plant two years ago, in anticipation of the transmission business. Until now, the facility has produced torque converters, which are shipped to Toyota’s Buffalo, WV, transmission plant. Toyota owns part of Aisin.

Despite the close keiretsu affiliation with its Japanese parent, Aisin is landing a fair amount of business with domestic producers in the U.S.

The supplier has confirmed automatic transmission programs with each of the Big Three OEMs by the end of 2006, says Don Whitsitt, senior vice president of Aisin AW.

Aisin plans to meet that demand not domestically but by importing the automatic gearboxes from Japan, Whitsitt says. He says there are no plans for another transmission plant in North America.

Shipping transmissions from Japan sounds expensive, but Whitsitt says his company has done it effectively since 1986, when it first supplied gearboxes for the Jeep Cherokee. The company has shipped some 3 million transmissions from Japan to the U.S.

Aisin AW also is producing 5-speed manual transmissions for Chevrolet Colorado and GMC Canyon pickups. The units are imported from Japan, Whitsitt says.

On the chassis side, Aisin’s Advics North America Inc. brake unit will supply its new hydraulic brake booster module for a Toyota vehicle beginning in October.

General Motors Corp. also will purchase hydraulic boosters from Aisin in February, says Gordon Daig, Advics vice president-sales and marketing.

The module, which will be produced in Terre Haute, IN, is considerably more compact than a conventional brake system because the vacuum booster has been replaced by a smaller hydraulic unit, Daig says.

In addition, the module integrates the antilock brake controller, which generally is packaged separately in the engine bay and requires a series of tubes to carry brake fluid to and from the unit.

One benefit is increased brake pressure, which will result in shorter stopping distances, Daig says.

Advics also announces it will join Robert Bosch GmbH and Continental Teves Inc. in the Electronic Stability Control Coalition.

Aisin World Corp. of America sales were $1 billion in 2001 and $1.5 billion in 2003 and are projected to exceed $2 billion by 2005.

tmurphy@primediabusiness.com