NEW YORK – Toyota Motor Corp. proves once again it takes kaizen seriously with its ’04 Camry Solara coupe.

Solara boasts record development time of 19 months.

The second-generation Solara was developed in U.S. facilities in 19 months, the shortest development time ever for a Toyota-brand vehicle sold in the U.S., officials say at the vehicle’s recent unveiling here.

Solara also is the most American among Toyota makes – with technical development undertaken by the Japanese auto maker’s U.S. facilities in Ann Arbor, MI, and design executed by Toyota’s Calty Design Research operation in California.

The new Solara, to be built on the Camry platform at Toyota’s Georgetown, KY, plant, is part of an overarching plan that sees Toyota flexing its manufacturing strength throughout its North American operations.

The Solara’s move from Toyota’s Cambridge, Ont., Canada, plant makes room for the Lexus RX 330, while the Sienna minivan shifts from Georgetown to a new line at its Princeton, IN, facility to accommodate Solara.

Officials say while many vehicles are designed, engineered and built in the U.S., the Solara is different in that engineering management, safety testing and styling and production development were completed in the U.S. as well. Consolidating the tasks in North America allowed for the speedy development time, they say.

The resulting coupe has grown in both exterior and interior dimensions, is more powerful and targets a sportier appearance. Solara’s 3.3L V-6 gets a 14% horsepower increase, to 225, and a 13% improvement in torque to 240 lb.-ft. (325 Nm). It also can be powered by a 4-cyl. engine.

Toyota credits manufacturing improvements for gaps of 0.019 ins. (0.5 mm) for interior fit and finish, tightened from 0.059-in. (1.5 mm) tolerances with the last generation. The auto maker also worked to reduce wind noise, by bettering the coefficient of drag to .29.

Solara is offered in three trim grades: the basic SE, the SE with Sports Package, and the more refined SLE. Sales begin mid-August, and Toyota promises a base price under $20,000. As with the last-generation Solara, a convertible version is to come.