DETROIT – Greg Bernas and Randy Stephens are named chief engineers at the Toyota Technical Center in Ann Arbor, MI, Toyota Motor Corp.’s U.S. research and development arm, Ward’s learns.

Their appointments mark the first time Toyota will have American-born chief engineers leading model development.

“Greg Bernas is now chief engineer for (the) Venza and Solara, and Randy Stephens is chief engineer for (the) Avalon,” Toyota Motor Sales U.S.A. Inc. spokesman Mike Michels tells Ward’s.

Bernas was executive chief engineer for the development of the Venza. He now takes over for the new cross/utility vehicle’s mid-cycle change and the next-generation model. He also will be chief engineer for the next-generation Camry Solara 2-door.

Stephens is named chief engineer for the Avalon large sedan and will oversee the next-generation model.

“If you look at TTC overall, I think the organization in the U.S. has over 1,000 engineers,” says Jim Lentz, president-TMSUSA, at the North American International Auto Show here.

“We just had the big expansion in Ann Arbor for the design and test facility. As we continue to evolve that expertise, I think you’ll see more and more (U.S.-based chief engineers named).”

Honda Motor Co. Ltd. has some American chief engineers, including Frank Paluch, who led development of the current-generation Acura MDX CUV.

cschweinsberg@wardsauto.com