Toyota Motor is proposing a major expansion of its research and development activities in southeast Michigan, bolstering the state’s claim to be the world’s leading high-tech automotive hub, the Detroit News reported.

The Japanese automaker, which already has its main North American technical centre in Ann Arbor, reportedly submitted a $US9 million bid to buy a 690-acre state-owned site in nearby York Township to build up its local vehicle development operations.

“It’s a real plum for this region,” David Cole, president of the Center for Automotive Research in Ann Arbor, told the paper. “With a major R&D centre, you could be talking about several thousand jobs easily — and these would be high-wage jobs.”

Toyota reportedly faces competition from a local developer, DPG-York, a unit of Diversified Property Group in West Bloomfield, which submitted a $25.25 million bid for the land. Toyota’s smaller bid, however, has a strong chance of prevailing because of the high-paying jobs and revenue it will bring to the state. The Michigan Department of Management and Budget, which is administering the sale, said in a release cited by the Detroit News that it is seeking “the best value to the state,” and will consider potential job creation, economic development and tax revenue in weighing the offers.

“Without a doubt, southeast Michigan is the world’s intellectual center for the auto industry,” Cole reportedly said. “Even companies not making cars here now have offices to keep tabs on what’s going on in the area.”

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The Detroit News said Toyota has operated its Ann Arbor research and development centre since 1977 while, in recent months, Hyundai Motor, Nissan Motor and Suzuki Motor also have announced plans to establish or expand research and engineering operations in southeast Michigan.