The Truth About Cars » Toyota The Truth About Cars is dedicated to providing candid, unbiased automobile reviews and the latest in auto industry news. Wed, 23 Jul 2014 16:29:19 +0000 en-US hourly 1 The Truth About Cars is dedicated to providing candid, unbiased automobile reviews and the latest in auto industry news. The Truth About Cars no The Truth About Cars (The Truth About Cars) 2006-2009 The Truth About Cars The Truth About Cars is dedicated to providing candid, unbiased automobile reviews and the latest in auto industry news. The Truth About Cars » Toyota Fourth-Gen Toyota Prius To Receive AWD, New Battery Packs Tue, 15 Jul 2014 12:00:20 +0000 2014 Toyota Prius

Though it may be a while before the fourth-generation Toyota Prius leaves the assembly line, it may be worth the wait as far as batteries and drivetrains are concerned.

Automotive News reports the new hybrid will have two choices for battery power. According to senior managing officer of powertrain development Koei Saga, both a low-cost nickel-metal hydride unit and a larger-capacity lithium ion pack — for longer electric-only range — will help provide power. Though Saga was cagey regarding economy numbers, he claimed that the new packs’ economy would “surprise everyone.”

Meanwhile, the power won’t be directed toward just the front wheels. Saga says there’s a possibility that AWD could be in the cards for the new Prius, which will be underpinned by the company’s Toyota New Global Architecture.

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Last First-Gen Volvo XC90 Rolls Out Of Torslanda Tue, 15 Jul 2014 10:00:12 +0000 Volvo XC90

Monday, the last first-gen Volvo XC90 rolled off the assembly line in Gothenburg, Sweden, where it was then driven to its final resting place as an exhibit in the Volvo Museum next door.

Autoblog reports 636,143 units of the seven-passenger SUV rolled off the assembly line between 2002 and 2014, with Volvo expecting to sell 50,000 annually. Instead, 85,000 left the showroom between 2004 and 2007 before dropping off to 11,000 units by the end of production.

Though the SUV is now a museum piece, the tooling will continue be used in China, where the XC90 will become the China-only XC Classic, joining other long-lived vehicles like the Volkswagen Santana Vista and the Beijing Auto Works Knight S12 (a.k.a., Jeep Cherokee XJ). Meanwhile, the workers in Torslanda will now prepare for the new XC90, set to make its global debut in August prior to production in 2015.

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Japan Three, Others Meet With President Over Supplier Aid Pledge Mon, 14 Jul 2014 13:00:56 +0000 Barack Obama playing pool

A number of U.S. and multinational corporations met with President Barack Obama Friday to shine a light upon their pledge to pay their suppliers within 15 days as part of an initiative to help small businesses expand and bring on more employees.

Automotive News reports representatives for Nissan, Toyota and Honda, including Honda North America executive vice president Rick Schostek, were in attendance for the 90-minute meeting about the pledge, based upon a similar program with government contractors, whereupon the federal government promises to quickly pay its contractors if the latter does the same for the smaller suppliers that help them.

The original initiative affected 172,000 small businesses, bringing $1 billion for workforce investment since its launch in 2011. Friday’s meeting was to reaffirm the pledge, as well as to introduce the program to the public sector.

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Capsule Review: 2014 Scion FR-S Mon, 07 Jul 2014 12:00:31 +0000 2014-scion-frs-001

If you purchase a Scion FR-S with an automatic transmission, I hope you’re deeply ashamed. There might be a legitimate reason. I’d accept a condition that prevents you from working a clutch and shifter. You know, something like losing a tussle with gangrene as a child or an advanced Type-II Diabetes induced foot-ectomy.

Harsh, inconsiderate statements, but why the hell would you want this car with an automatic?


I was deeply disappointed by this 2014 Scion FR-S, and I was disappointed by a 2013 FR-S before that. Both were afflicted with automatic transmissions. When it shifts on its own, it’s only half as good. Instead of working in harmony with the excellent chassis, the dopey automatic slams and locks the door on driver engagement.

There are still brilliant elements. The styling is handsome, restrained and timeless. If it only lasts a single generation, the FT-86 is going to be a classic the instant it’s no longer available. The long hood, short deck, stubby little trunklid, and fenders arching over the front wheels make up a great-looking car.

Greasy Prius tires, the story goes, were chosen to bring the limits down and make the car more fun on every drive. It works. The FR-S doesn’t need a race track to make you smile. Other ToyoBaru legend-making will include threadbare references to the old AE-86 Corolla. I contend that we’re looking back too fondly. The FR-S isn’t cheap speed, either, racking up a $28,711 price tag configured as I drove it. Options were limited to the rear bumper applique, fog lights, rear spoiler, and the BeSpoke premium audio package, which at $1,198 makes up the bulk of the increase over the $25,800 base MSRP.


For 2014, Scion added some leather-like padded vinyl to cover what had been areas of cheap plastic. It’s an effective trick that premiums up the place. The BeSpoke infotainment system includes navigation, voice control, and Bluetooth connectivity, but it will make you work for it. The unit is fiddly to use, the screen is small, and the Bluetooth sound quality will annoy the people you’re calling. Still, it’s refreshing to get a cabin that’s more of a business office. The important controls are located well and easy to use, and that discourages getting distracted by the electronics. After all, we’re here to drive.

The FR-S is a swell trainer. All of the attitudes and responses of a performance car are available to you without the need to plunge past 100 mph. Much like a Miata is a great performance driving starter kit, the FR-S is an accurate-handling car with well-weighted steering, an alert ride, and responsive turn-in. There’s a Torsen limited slip differential standard, and 17″ wheels with 215/45 tires are small these days, but about all you need with the modest curb weight. The FR-S is certainly equipped as a serious driver’s car, ain’t it a bitch that it’s got no lungs to match the legs?


If only the FR-S had about 100 more horsepower. Actually, I wish for about 75 lb-ft more torque, no need to be greedy. The 2.0 liter Subaru boxer is tweaked up with the Toyota D-4S dual fuel-injection rig that uses its direct injectors all the time and supplements with port injection under certain conditions. Scion touts the 100 hp per liter, and it is good for a naturally-aspirated engine. Thank the high 12.5:1 compression ratio for the 200 hp the engine delivers, but torque is a paltry 151 lb-ft to move 2,800 lbs. That’s something not even a 4.10:1 final drive can make up for.

Wimpy engines are more palatable with manual transmissions. While the automatic may help with off-the-line torque multiplication, I hated the mushy flat spot in the middle of the rpm range. Flatten the pedal, nothing much is going on until you clear 4,500 rpm. That’s a long wait. Dyno tests of the FR-S have shown a deep drop-off in torque from 3-4,000 rpm, and boy howdy do you feel it behind the wheel.


Despite the sharp handling, the FR-S is a chore to drive with the auto. It’s less involving than it could be, it doesn’t have enough power to be responsive, and even with a sport mode and paddle shifters, the entertainment is marginal. I’m not a fan of automatics masquerading as race-bred automated gearboxes, and this six-speed in the FR-S is no exception. Up or down, shifts happen too slowly, and that’s something no amount of gimmicky rev-matching can fix. By the time the transmission gets around to delivering what you’ve asked for, the moment has passed, the apex you were clipping is in the mirror, and that’s that. Yawn city instead of yee-haw.

The aftermarket can help, just like it’s been supporting Miata buyers in search of increased wattage for years. Superchargers are a start, V8 swaps have happened. “You’ll mess up the balance!” they’ll cry. Yes, some, but the FR-S could use a little irresponsible imbalance. Trading some increased understeer and a slightly higher center of gravity for a deeper, more flexible well of whoop-ass would be a worthwhile transaction.

The official line is that the wonderful new turbo version of this engine in the WRX won’t fit. There’s also nothing in the Toyota or Subaru dugout that’s packaged like a pushrod small-block, so dreams of a dry-sumped aluminum OHV V8 snuggled against the firewall are just that. Subaru and Toyota are telling the truth. Automakers have to make stuff fit, meet crash standards, avoid setting things on fire, and be reliable for tens of thousands of miles. That’s hard and expensive, and it’s why we can’t have nice things.

They say turbo plumbing won’t fit, and as neat as it would be to drop the 3.6 liter flat six from the Outback in the nose of one of these things, that’s about as likely to happen as a turbine. A talented individual with money (lots of money), time (lots of time), and skill (lots of skill) can turn the FR-S into whatever he or she pleases, powered by whatever can be made to fit. It’s a great platform for the modern-day AC Cobra or Sunbeam Tiger. Box-stock, especially with an automatic, the usefulness of the Scion FR-S is limited.


The problem comes down to money. A Mustang GT is a squeak away at $31,210, less if you can find a dealer hot to move the now-finite S197 models to make room for the 2015 S550 platform Mustang. For a little bit more every month, or a slightly longer loan with a quarter or half point more on the interest rate, you’ll get a 420 hp V8 and a chassis that’s not anywhere near as disciplined as the FR-S, but good enough. A Mustang GT can make the FR-S a small speck in the mirror and keep it there, whether the road is straight or twisty. A Mustang V6 Premium is priced right on top of the FR-S and will whip it, good. Any multitude of ratty used performance cars are truly vehicular methamphetamine capable of deeply embarrassing the guy bringing his $30,000 Scion to track day.

It probably sounds like I don’t like the FR-S. That’s not true. The upgrades for 2014 dress up the interior. The BeSpoke infotainment option is a nice suite of tech where previously there was none. The chassis is still the standout feature, though I wish they’d get over the hybrid tires and put some real performance rubber on it. The entertainment-versus-efficiency tradeoff is good, delivering a lot of fun with a small appetite. The FR-S remains a nimble, good-looking car. It also still screams for some real power and the automatic could make a yogi have a tantrum. Just learn to shift.

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2015 Audi A3 Sedan Sales Outpacing Supply, Stealing From Honda, Toyota Mon, 07 Jul 2014 11:00:31 +0000 Audi S3 Limousine

The 2015 Audi A3 Sedan is doing quite well for itself in the United States since its arrival back in April of this year, even if the hipster parties during the sedan’s U.S. unveiling more than likely just amused the automaker’s traditional clientele instead of attracting younger buyers as the party plan intended.

Autoblog reports Audi of America sold 2,452 A3 Sedans in June alone, with just over 25 percent of consumers under the age of 30. That particular group of young Audi drivers are new to the automaker, brand conquests over Honda and Toyota.

As for buying one right now, there may be a line ahead of you: Audi is still stocking its dealer network with the $30,795 sedan, with a wait as long as 30 days for those wanting specific features for their A3. The line may grow longer, however, when the automaker’s A3 E-tron arrives in Q2 2015, with every one of Audi’s U.S. dealerships being granted the opportunity to sell the PHEV.

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Hydrogen Digest: July 1, 2014 Tue, 01 Jul 2014 12:00:20 +0000 DSC_0018

In today’s hydrogen digest: Toyota asks the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration for a two-year exemption on its FCV; the automaker banks on subsidies to help the FCV leave the showrooms at home and abroad; and ammonia may be the secret to hydrogen’s success as a fuel.

Bloomberg reports Toyota is asking the NHTSA for a two-year exemption from FMVSS No. 305, which requires automakers to isolate high-voltage parts in electric cars in the event of a crash. The FCV doesn’t meet this rule in full because said isolation would render the vehicle inoperable, opting instead to use insulation on high-voltage cables and related components to protect first responders and occupants from potential electrical shocks in the event of a low-speed accident. Toyota claims the protections will be at least equal to those in compliance with the agency’s rule.

Meanwhile, Automotive News says the automaker is banking on subsidies at home and in markets such as the United States and Europe to help the FCV leave the showroom toward the path of success. The ¥7 million ($69,000 USD) will need a sizable credit to match its Lexus-esque pricing when it goes on sale in Japan next April; the highest subsidy is ¥850,000 (approximately $8,400). As for the U.S., where fueling infrastructure is woefully inadequate, Toyota may instead opt to lease the FCV, details of the plan still in discussion.

Finally, Autoblog Green reports ammonia may be the way toward the hydrogen future. The Science and Technologies Facilities Council in Swindon, England have discovered a process which cracks ammonia into nitrogen and hydrogen using sodium amide as the catalyst. The lower-cost process could be conducted on-board an FCV via an ammonia decomposition reactor no bigger than a 2-liter bottle of Coke, providing enough power for “a mid-range family car” while easily handling NOx-free tailpipe emissions. The STFC is now in the process of building a low-energy demonstration system to prove ammonia’s viability as a source of hydrogen fuel.

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Fourth-Generation Toyota Prius Production Delayed Six Months Tue, 01 Jul 2014 10:00:21 +0000 2014 Toyota Prius

Once set for production in the spring of 2015, the fourth generation of Toyota’s Prius will instead enter production beginning in December of said year.

Automotive News Europe reports the delay is due to engineers wanting to massage as much fuel economy as possible, along with adjustments to the chassis and body. The confirmation model of the new hybrid is expected in November 2014, 12 months before production is set to begin; the plug-in variant will follow in October 2016.

Though Toyota declined to clarify the reasons behind the delay, managing officer for product planning Satoshi Ogiso said the new hybrid will serve as a test bed for the automaker’s modular Toyota New Global Architecture and a new hybrid system that will be more compact and lighter than the current system while delivering a thermal efficiency rate above 40 percent. The system will also support a wider range of engines and vehicles beyond the Prius and Camry hybrids.

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Honda, Nissan, Mazda Recall 3 Million Over Defective Airbag Inflators Tue, 24 Jun 2014 10:00:29 +0000 Honda_Civic_Si_EP3

Honda, Nissan and Mazda are recalling a total of 3 million vehicles equipped with defective airbag inflators supplied by Takata, following a similar action by Toyota.

Automotive News reports 2.03 million Hondas, 755,000 Nissans and 159,807 Mazdas globally are being recalled to replace the defective units. The effort comes just after Toyota recalled 1.62 vehicles outside Japan that were recalled earlier this month for the same issue, and 655,000 vehicles in the home market that were being recalled for the first time. As of June 23, 10 million vehicles between 2009 and 2014 have been recalled due to defects in Takata’s airbag units.

June’s action follow those by the four automakers conducted in April of this year, when Takata informed the group that a number of the defective units had escaped into the supplier channels due to poor record-keeping between 2000 and 2002 at the supplier’s plants in Washington and Mexico, where the moisture-infected units were assembled and stored. Moisture degraded the airbags’ inflators, which led to the units exploding, throwing metal shrapnel throughout the cabin.

Other manufacturers who used Takata airbags — including Ford, Chrysler and BMW — are also calling back a handful of affected models, especially those in humid climates such as Florida and Puerto Rico; CEO Shigehisa Takada claimed “the high levels of absolute humidity in those states” may also cause catastrophic failure of the inflators.

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UAW Will Spend Less On Transplant Organization Campaigns Mon, 09 Jun 2014 13:00:45 +0000 UAW + UniteHere Protest June 2014

Though the United Auto Worker’s fight for organization of the transplants in the Southeastern United States rages on, the union will not be taking as much from its war chest to fund the fight than in previous years.

The Detroit News reports UAW Secretary-Treasurer Gary Casteel informed reporters at the end of the 36th UAW Constitutional Convention that there would be news this week of the union’s plan to organize the Mercedes-Benz plant in Vance, Ala. despite the lack of support for the UAW. He also says he will remain in Tennessee to help with the renewed fight for the Volkswagen plant in Chattanooga, where the union lost in a contentious election back in February amid allegations of anti-union interference.

As for what those plans entail, or how much less the union was willing to spend on them, Casteel did not offer specifics; the UAW spent $15 million under the term of former union president Bob King, whose term ended with the election of new president and former secretary-treasurer Dennis Williams. He also said his union would not be affected by Canadian labor union Unifor’s efforts to organize Toyota’s plants in Ontario, nor did he believe if Chattanooga had been won, all of the remaining transplants would soon follow:

I don’t really believe in the domino effect. If Volkswagen had been successful, I didn’t see this domino effect with the other transnationals and vice-versa.

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Toyota’s First FCVs To Arrive In Showrooms Christmas 2014 Mon, 09 Jun 2014 10:00:33 +0000 Toyota FCV Concept With Penguins

Toyota is wasting no time in moving forward toward a hydrogen future, announcing it will build its FCV Concept-based fuel-cell sedan this December, with sales coming just in time for the big-red-bow-tie Christmas 2014 sales extravaganza.

The Japan Times reports the FCV will likely be built by the dozen on a monthly basis at the automaker’s Motomachi plant in Toyota, Aichi Prefecture. As for price, early adopters can expect to fork over some ¥8 million (~$78,000 USD), while those coming aboard in the next decade will pay between ¥3 million and ¥5 million (~$29,000 and ~$49,000 USD) to contribute toward the water cycle.

For those who dive into Toyota’s hydrogen-electric future, range is expected to be 300 miles per tank, with refueling to take anywhere from three to five minutes at a hydrogen fueling station. Though the automaker has no plans to emulate Tesla’s Supercharger infrastructure for its FCV, it will lend its hand in developing and managing the supply of hydrogen.

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Volkswagen To Triple SUV Lineup In Fight Against Toyota For Total Global Sales Wed, 04 Jun 2014 11:00:24 +0000 Volkswagen-T-ROC-Concept-02

With Toyota still in its sights, Volkswagen plans to triple the number of SUVs in its lineup in its fight for the top sales podium among the Global Three.

Bloomberg reports the current offerings — the midsize Touareg and compact Tiguan — will soon be joined by the upcoming seven-passenger CrossBlue-based SUV that will either be assembled in Mexico or Tennessee, coupe and long-wheelbase versions of the Tiguan, the Touareg and a subcompact based on either the Taigun or T-ROC concepts. The strategy would provide VW with the opportunity to meet Toyota across the latter’s range on its way to beat the Japanese automaker in global deliveries by 2018, and would build brand strength in the United States and emerging markets such as China.

Meanwhile, Audi, Bentley, Lamborghini and Porsche are also moving further into the SUV market, ranging from the Cayenne and new Macan — both of which are expected to account for 64 percent of all Porsche sales by next year, according to IHS Automotive — to the Q1 in 2016 and Urus in 2017. The overall game would net Volkswagen an operating profit boost over 6 percent of sales over the current rate of 2.9 percent, as SUVs are considered to be more profitable than other vehicles.

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RIP Boxy Scions (2002-2014) Tue, 03 Jun 2014 15:25:34 +0000 IMG_0165-550x392

It’s the end of an automotive era, as the Scion xB (as well as the milquetoast xD) are set to die by the year’s end. In exchange, we’re getting a couple of new, world market Toyotas to shore up Scion’s lineup.

AutoGuide is reporting that two new additions will join the Scion lineup: first, Scion will get a version of the Toyota Auris, a hatchback that shares some mechanicals with the Toyota Corolla. One chief difference is the addition of an independent rear suspension, and our own Ronnie Schreiber had the chance to compare our Corolla with the Auris not long ago. With the Toyota Matrix set to die, the Auris would be a perfect replacement.

The second vehicle will be based on the new Mazda2/Toyota Yaris joint venture, but it will take the form of a conventional sedan and be built at Mazda’s new Mexican factory.

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Best Selling Cars Around The Globe: Portal To All Of Them Here Sun, 01 Jun 2014 14:58:36 +0000 Our whirlwind tour around the planet takes you to a new country every week. We have explored 75 destinations so far, and they are all listed below.
Each title is also the link to the full article.
If the nation you are looking for is not here, my blog covers 177 countries and territories so it should quench your thirst…
Datsun Go. Picture courtesy of What Car? India
The Indian new car market and its dynamics have very unique characteristics. Understanding India is essential in today’s worldwide automotive scene – a lot of the innovation taking place here will soon be applied to other developing markets (like Africa). Jump in to be an instant Indian car market expert.
1938 Delahaye 135
Now that Dongfeng and the French state have stakes in PSA Peugeot Citroen, does it make the French manufacturer better equipped than Renault mid-term profitability?
Zhiguli for TTAC
Trans-Siberian Series:
For the next few weeks I take you on a trip through the Russian, Mongolian and Chinese steppe… Follow the journey step by step below.
Shanghai traffic. Picture courtesy of Flickr
Check out what made car sales headlines around the world last year.
Carfree Paris. Picture courtesy of
Ford and Renault don’t see a return to growth until the end of the decade. I ask: Will it ever?
Volvo V40. Picture courtesy of
I’ve been generous: no less than 6 models are under the worldwide spotlights this month…
Kia Rio. Picture courtesy of
The Jeep Wrangler is the best-selling US model in this Carribean Island…
8 of the 9 best-selling models in California are Japanese…
Renault Captur. Picture courtesy of Auto Bild
Two French models and two Czech shine this month…
JAC Tojoy. Picture courtesy of JAC
Somehow hitting a wall at home, Chinese manufacturers have had to develop strategies to win overseas. We explore how they do in 5 Parts.
Honda CR-V. Picture courtesy of
Literally. Check out the ranking above.
2013 Honda Accord Sport Sedan
It depends on how you look at it…
Toyota RAV4. Picture courtesy of
Toyota waited 8 years to replace its RAV4, and now it’s making waves worldwide…
Audi A3. Picture courtesy of
A perfect example of the ‘low-cost or premium’ trend at play in European markets…
Wuling Hongguang. Picture courtesy of copy
A Chinese on the podium! Discover the 200 best-selling cars in the world by clicking on the link above.
Nissan Leaf. Picture courtesy of
If the Nissan Leaf has struggled to make itself noticed in most parts of the world, it’s a completely different story in Norway…
Nissan Qashqai.Picture courtesy of
Even though it is basically a facelifted version of a 6 year-old model, the Nissan Qashqai continues to turn all car marketing knowledge upside down, still breaking record after record…
It’s no secret that Chinese brands have been struggling in their home market. Is this about to change though? Yes sir…

World Full Year 2012: Discover the Top 1000 (yes. One Thousand.) best-selling models!
For the first time in the history of the internet and cars, you have access to the 1000 best-selling cars around the globe. So enjoy!

Mexico Full Year 2013: The only country where Nissan is #1
There is a new #1 in the models ranking in Mexico this year, and surprisingly it’s not a Nissan…

Germany Full Year 2012: Volkswagen sovereign
What model has been #1 in Germany for 37 of the last 38 years? Click on the title above to find out…

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Crapwagon Outtake: Feels Like The First Time Fri, 23 May 2014 17:31:57 +0000 281366_10150268924128654_306964_n

I feel fortunate enough that the first manual transmission car I ever drove was a 1986 Toyota Corolla GT-S. Yes, that Corolla. Although I am barely in my twenties, I learned how to drive a stickshift at a time when you could still pick up a ratty AE86 for a few hundred bucks.

My friend’s car, which cost him $200, was in surprisingly good condition, given the price. Just a bit of surface rust on the rear wheel well, although the red paint was horribly faded. The fact that it was a coupe, and not the highly sought-after hatchback, meant that it wasn’t subject to the “Initial D” tax. Some Celica Supra rims, a Canadian Tire fart can and a cone filter helped add a bit of polish to the car.

This example, set up for SCCA racing, reminded me of how much fun I had at the wheel of the red GT-S. I loved the free-revving engine, the light, accurate steering and the impossibly light weight. Every minute input to the throttle, brakes and steering seemed to have a proportionate 1:1 response to how the car behaved. It was my first introduction into the mechanical purity of Japanese cars of a specific era. Small wonder that as soon as I could afford a car, I ended up with a Miata. By then, the AE86 had all but disappeared from Canadian roads. The survivors had been hoarded by other local Toyota fanatics, many of them Filipino immigrants who have prospered in their adopted country and sought to recreate the dream cars of their youth. I’ve yet to convince any of them to hand over the keys to their own examples. Except Rob – he moved on to something very different (but still a Toyota), and having driven it, I can confirm he made the right choice.

284448_10150268920013654_7992866_n 185366_10150268924443654_6197883_n 185375_10150268926318654_6924086_n 185450_10150268935878654_7902497_n 198758_10150268931163654_5679867_n 215007_10150268935738654_5830977_n 216659_10150268931898654_6103060_n 223147_10150268920448654_5229052_n 228854_10150268920543654_5443972_n 228946_10150268919923654_2285807_n 249341_10150268921103654_3830790_n 250361_10150268926148654_6174353_n 252139_10150268919843654_353065_n 254668_10150268931018654_7979672_n 254738_10150268935373654_641371_n 281201_10150268924273654_6531297_n 281215_10150268920353654_3388292_n 281366_10150268924128654_306964_n 281896_10150268931648654_1959947_n 281933_10150268919798654_987105_n 282116_10150268935133654_8213632_n 282408_10150268919763654_5370201_n (1) 283100_10150268931468654_5396316_n 283374_10150268935553654_4800000_n 284179_10150268920083654_2162106_n 284180_10150268931293654_2262308_n 284381_10150268920843654_1134254_n 284448_10150268920013654_7992866_n ]]> 24
Toyota Develops New Hybrid Fuel Economy-Boosting Semiconductor Tech Thu, 22 May 2014 11:00:37 +0000 Toyota Hybrid Semiconductors

Looking to wring out more fuel efficiency in its hybrids, Toyota has developed a silicon-carbide wafer semiconductor that could boost efficiency up to 10 percent.

Automotive News reports the semiconductor has already bestowed a 5 percent improvement in test units, with the goal of bringing the new technology to market by 2020. The potential for 10 percent increases in hybrid fuel efficiency occurs due to less energy being lost under regenerative braking, and less energy being used to power the semiconductor in the first place, whose design enables an 80 percent decrease in size from current semiconductors.

The only obstacle to bringing the tech to market is cost, which the automaker says is “an order of magnitude” higher than regular silicon wafers. In addition, silicon carbide is difficult and costly to turn into wafers, being one of the hardest materials found in the world to date.

The new semiconductors are being developed in-house with help from Toyota Central R&D Labs and supplier Denso, and will be applicable in both hybrid and EV vehicles.

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Toyota Turns Away From Batteries, Toward Fuel Cells Wed, 21 May 2014 13:00:19 +0000 Toyota FCV Concept

After 20 years of pursuing a battery-powered future, Toyota has decided to take a different course powered by hydrogen.

Automotive News reports Toyota North America CEO Jim Lentz says his company sees EVs’ viability “in a select way, in short-range vehicles that take you that extra mile, from the office to the train, or home to the train, as well as being used on large [corporate] campuses.” This view is reflected in the decision to end its purchase agreement with Tesla of battery packs for 2,600 RAV4 EVs over three years, which Lentz personally felt future investment into the agreement would be better spent developing hydrogen fuel cells instead.

Speaking of such things, Toyota’s commitment toward a hydrogen future includes a $7 million “arms-length” investment in FirstElement Fuel Inc. — the startup founded by former General Motors and Hyundai executive Joel Ewanick — in its plan to build 19 hydrogen fueling stations throughout California by the autumn of 2015. The automaker’s own research found that 68 stations would be needed in California to meet the needs of 10,000 fuel cell vehicle owners, 50 of which are expected to come online by the end of 2016.

Lentz says he hopes his company won’t be alone in developing the emerging market like it was when the Prius first arrived. So far, Toyota, Honda and Hyundai are working on new fuel cell vehicles to help spur demand, the first of which are predicted to arrive in 2015.

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EVs, PHEVs Faring Better Than Hybrids In Fourth-Year Sales Comparison Wed, 21 May 2014 12:00:06 +0000 chevy volt cop car_l

Though it may appear EVs and PHEVs aren’t flying out of showrooms in comparison to Toyota Camrys and Ford F-150s, IHS Automotive says that in comparison to hybrids, the electrified offerings are faring better in their fourth year of sales.

Autoblog Green reports the research group found that in 2013, cumulative sales of the Nissan Leaf reached 100,000, while those of the Chevrolet Volt hit 70,000 in the same four-year period. Meanwhile, the first-generation Toyota Prius only managed 52,000 after four years of accumulated sales. Unlike the Prius when it first arrived, though, EVs and PHEVs have had help from federal and state tax credits, inflating sales more than where they would have been otherwise.

That said, IHS notes the market is still in the early stages of growth, with most EV/PHEV owners still in possession of their first such vehicles. Analyst Ben Scott, however, states 2014 will be the year PHEVs pull ahead of their fully electric siblings thanks to their gasoline-powered range extenders. Scott added that by 2020, the ratio between the two approaches to automotive electrification will be 55:45 in favor of the PHEV.

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Tesla Surpasses Toyota In Employment Numbers Among California Automakers Mon, 19 May 2014 11:00:58 +0000 tesla-model-x

Thanks in part to Toyota’s decision to relocate its U.S. base of operations from California to Texas, Tesla is now the former state’s largest automotive industry employer.

Bloomberg reports the EV automaker has over 6,000 employees so far, with plans to add 500 by year’s end. Meanwhile, Toyota has 5,300 employees in California, the majority of whom will pack their bags for Plano by 2017.

Tesla could end up doubling that number should California get the nod for the 6,500-strong Gigafactory, which would also place it far ahead of fellow tech companies such as Twitter and Facebook.

The major block in bringing the battery factory to California the high cost of doing business in the state, including industrial power rates and workers’ compensation, both of which are the highest in the nation. The Brown administration aims to fix some of this through tax credits for companies who maintain or add jobs in California.

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Analysis: Toyota Could Bring $7.2 Billion To Texas Over Next Decade Fri, 16 May 2014 10:00:26 +0000 Toyota Texas

Toyota’s big move from California to Texas may also bring a big return for Plano, Texas over the next decade, to the tune of $7.2 billion of economic activity.

Bloomberg reports an analysis by Chicago-based Grant Thornton LLP claims the $7.2 billion includes $4.2 billion from payroll taxes, as well as direct and indirect payments, and revenues from sales and property taxes. The analysis was issued on the same day Plano approved a large incentive deal for Toyota, including $6.75 billion in grants and property tax discounts. The state government also approved an incentive package, totaling $40 million.

The report also notes the move and consolidation of Toyota’s operations in the United States to Plano from California, Kentucky and New York, announced last month, is expected to bring as many as 3,650 full-time employees with an average salary of $104,000 by 2018.

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Tesla-Toyota Battery Deal For RAV4 EV Concluding By Year-End Mon, 12 May 2014 10:00:42 +0000 2013 Toyota RAV4 EV, Exterior, Photography Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes

Tesla’s deal with Toyota to supply the automaker with battery packs and motors for the latter’s RAV4 EV will come to a close by the end of 2014 at the same time the electric crossover is expected to cease production.

Bloomberg reports Toyota announced in May of 2012 that it would purchase components from Tesla for 2,600 RAV4 EVs over three years with the possibility of extending the agreement. With word that the EV would cease production at the end of this year, however, Tesla announced in its quarterly filing — where it proclaimed that the deal netted $15 million for Q1 2014 — that related production would draw to a close, as well.

Meanwhile, Toyota spokesman John Hanson claims the EV hasn’t been cancelled, nor has his employer “made any announcement about the relationship or what [Toyota will] do with Tesla in the future.” To date, 1,594 of the $50,000 electric crossovers have left California showroom since 2012.

In the meantime, Toyota will introduce in 2015 a hydrogen fuel sedan based upon the FCV Concept introduced in late 2013, while Tesla — in addition to its own product plans — will boost component production for Daimler AG, who, like Toyota, is an investor in the EV automaker.

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Rental Review: 2014 Toyota RAV4 LE Wed, 07 May 2014 15:33:07 +0000 Rav41

Change is inevitable, but it isn’t always predictable. Such was the case with a recent death in the family. Eighty-five-year-olds typically aren’t long for this world, but her stroke and swift passing was still sudden.

After some hurried preparations and two flights, I found myself standing on a rental lot. To distract myself from weightier matters, I sought out something I hadn’t driven before. The Toyota RAV4 was redesigned for model year 2013, but I hadn’t driven one yet. Hoping for a vehicular cocoon, I blew through the paperwork and headed east for New Jersey.

Most of the press coverage about the RAV4’s redesign focused on three obvious changes. TTAC’s own Alex Dykes went further and provided an exhaustive review, but the basic changes are significant – the V6 was dropped, the external spare tire (now a just a compact) migrated under the hatch floor, and the rear hatch itself was redesigned to open on upright struts like the rest of the compact CUV class. Less discussed was the fact that rear visibility was also discontinued.


They don’t fix blind spots on the interstate, but at least a rear camera and 6.1 inch LCD screen are now standard on all trims in 2014. Entune, Toyota’s infotainment system, posed no major issues. Maximum brightness and “day mode” were not enough to prevent the LCD screen from washing out in sunlight though. A higher-resolution 6.1 inch LCD, optional on the LE and standard on the upper trims, may perform better but was not installed on my vehicle.

As a man who occasionally wears sandals and socks, I try to avoid making stylistic judgments (to my wife: I’m JUST getting the mail!). However, there are a lot of interior materials and designs competing for attention – faux carbon fiber on the center console, faux stitching along the dash, three types of display screens feeding information to the driver, etc. It’s a busy place, and the ergonomics aren’t flawless. Buttons are hidden behind the steering wheel, and the second 12v receptacle (recessed at the base of the IP) can only be found by touch.


My father’s new Escape SE provided a stark contrast. In a decidedly non-scientific poll, everyone who sat in both vehicles preferred the design and perceived richness of the Ford. A RAV4 XLE, as opposed to my entry-level LE, would be a better comparison on paper. In reality though, the toys brought along by the XLE (dual-zone temperature, power moonroof, etc.) do nothing to improve the harmony of the space.


Whatever the RAV4 lacks in interior design, it makes up for in space. The Toyota straddles the median of the class in most physical dimensions but offers both more rear legroom and more usable cargo capacity than my father’s Escape and several competitors. The rear bench is flat but sits high off the floor, and all three seats feature LATCH anchors for child seats. The bench’s rake adjustment is also generous.


Most competitors, especially the CR-V, offer more cubbies and small touches, but RAV4’s overall cargo capacity is excellent. Hauling five passengers and luggage for a weekend is viable, and seven feet of length are available when the 60/40 rear seats are folded. The rear floor is not quite flat (contrary to Toyota’s literature), but the rear hatch can be closed with 2”x4”x8’ boards propped against the front seatbacks.

Fuel economy was also a highlight. Despite just 2,400 miles on the AWD trucklet, my always-light foot averaged 29 MPG in mixed driving around Philadelphia and suburban New Jersey. The ability of the 6-speed automatic’s torque converter to lock at just 12mph also helped me beat EPA estimates for both FWD (24 city, 31 highway, 26 combined) and AWD (22 city, 29 highway, 25 combined).

This isn’t a case of extreme power deprivation. The direct-injected 2.5 liter inline four, the only engine available on all trim levels, features dual variable-valve-timing and what Toyota dubs “intelligence.” (Very HAL9000, Toyota). Class-average output of 176 HP and 172 pound-feet of torque is married to a similarly class-average 3,435 pound curb weight. You won’t win many drag races, but you won’t be desperate for tailwinds.

The Mitsubishi Outlander I recently drove was considerably lighter and noisier. I expect most consumers will prefer Toyota’s tradeoff. Road, wind and engine noise are all subdued around town and at highway speeds. The RAV4 isn’t quite “hushed”, but the N(oise) of NVH is favorable. So what about V(ibration) and H(arshness)?

This is where things start to get a little… rough. Dodge apparently isn’t the only one making “Shaker” hoods these days. A mild vibration could be felt through the steering wheel at idle and, more surprisingly, also seen along the center of the hood. The engine also makes a grating whine on particularly cold starts, but this is true of many competing inline fours.

Because this is the Internet, the Sport button must be discussed. The car’s standard tune is obviously oriented for efficiency – RPMs stay low, and the throttle tuning is best described as relaxed. You’ll overcorrect trying to merge onto the freeway, and ECO mode just furthers these tendencies. Engaging Sport mode doesn’t fire a hidden Windsor 302, but the electric steering tightens, transmission shifts quicken and throttle tip-in noticeably sharpens. If you need to shoot through a gap in traffic, Sport mode is helpful.

There are two major criticisms left to address. First, the RAV4 did poorly in the IIHS’s controversial new small-overlap test. Customers who can look past this may instead be put off by the crossover’s ride. Grandma won’t confuse this for her old Avalon. Even with the standard 65-series tires, impacts are sharp. Does handling at least benefit?

Ehhhh… no. The beloved Mazda CX-5 and Ford Escape both do relatively well in transition. Take a turn at moderate speed in the RAV4, and the weight suddenly spills over with more body roll than expected. Understeer builds quickly, and confidence never does. The brakes are scrub speed in a commendably linear manner, but this just isn’t a car you want to hustle. At best, this is a simulation of sportiness.

The RAV4 is still competitive where it counts for most consumers. Despite its status as the base trim, the LE is not missing any amenities. Power windows and locks, remote entry, folding rear seats, Bluetooth, the aforementioned LCD infotainment system and backup camera, and most other expected niceties of 2014 are present and accounted for. Even the steel wheels disguise their true nature well.


It is possible to spend over $33,000 on a fully-loaded RAV4 Limited, but you get the same engine, transmission and interior design as the proles who spent just $24,410 for an LE. The RAV4 has a lot going for it without checking a single option box, but consumers have no ways to fix issues like ride harshness or the ergonomics of secondary controls.

Change is inevitable, but it isn’t always predictable. In the case of the RAV4, a little more change is needed to become best in class.

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Capsule Review: 2014 Toyota Corolla S Plus CVT Tue, 06 May 2014 15:12:38 +0000 image - Copy

“Are you interested in our Thousand Dollar Test Drive raffle?” the saleslady eagerly asked. A row of new Corollas beckoned at the front of the lot; their freshly redesigned maws were hungry for customers. 

 The car I wound up driving is not the one in the pictures, but this showroom model is exactly the same sans a color change. A combination of threatening weather, pollen, and lens glare prevented me from getting any decent shots of the one on the lot. Just as well, because I greatly prefer this car’s red to the other’s less flashy silver metallic. Even if the redesign turns out to be too adventurous for Toyota’s more conservative customers, I’m a fan. The 17” wheels of the S Plus are harmonious with the car’s overall proportions, and unlike the refreshed Camry there’s no DLO fail in the rear side windows. I will say that the racy elegance of the piano black front grille with chrome surround on the S doesn’t translate well into the cheaper trims. On those, you get a wide swath of “I’m poor” unpainted plastic, much like the unfortunate snout of the Chevrolet SS.

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 The interior is the single greatest area of improvement over the old car. Grab the dash, and you can tell that there’s a greater level of solidity in its construction. Luxurious isn’t the word I’d use to describe it, but everything is in easy-to-use good taste. The piano black and painted silver complement the overall cockpit ambiance without feeling cheesy or me-too. The dash felt high to me, but no worse than most other cars on the market right now. The back-up camera kicks on automatically, but I still prefer the rear window: visibility is reasonable but not great.  At 6’ 2” I had no problem getting comfortable and ready to roll.

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 Speaking of comfort, the seats were the best part of the entire car for me. The lumbar support felt great on my aching, recently operated-on back, and the bottom cushion was supportive but not too firm. I didn’t need to use the orthopedic pad I’ve been dragging around with me, and felt fine throughout my test drive. The six-way mechanical adjustment mechanism was great, especially the up-down function. In short, these seats completely outclass the previous-generation car, my xA, the Focus, the Altima, and pretty much anything else I can think of. If you do a lot of freeway driving and are contemplating a car at around this price and size, the Corolla deserves your consideration for those seats alone.

 The version of Toyota’s Entune infotainment system gave me no problems in my brief experimentation with it. It was easy to Bluetooth sync an Iphone 4 and make a long-distance call, which the recipient had no trouble understanding. I didn’t have any songs on that phone so I couldn’t test the music sync, but the menus were easy to understand. The stereo came through loud and clear- no complaints there. The voice-command system employs a training function that adjusts to the driver with time, so it’s difficult to get a feel for it during a short drive. As a millennial that spends a shockingly small amount of time playing with his phone while driving, I have no complaints regarding anything infotainment-related.

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 The only true negatives to the interior are in the back, but they don’t cancel out the strengths of the front. The rear seats don’t fold flat, and the trunk pass-through is disappointingly narrow. I didn’t have enough room to avoid hitting my head on the headliner, which didn’t surprise me: compact car back seats are rarely my friend. Even so, legroom was more than adequate and therefore should be good for just about anyone who isn’t an NBA center.  The biggest gripe I had was the totally flimsy and destined-to-break collapsible rear cup holder. I would rather sacrifice a small amount of center console room to get one or two molded cup holders, especially given the fact that in many cases rear-seat occupants are likely to be children. A couple toddler kicks is all it will take to bust off that chintzy fold-up mechanism. Another more trivial complaint: the map pocket on the back of the passenger seat is unlined. Instead of durable pleather, it’s some type of clingy foam material which felt thoroughly unpleasant on my hand. There’s also the annoying lack of a rear-seat coathook by the grab handle, a useful feature I have utilized in my xA countless times. What are you supposed to do with your dry-cleaning now?

 In terms of overall road manners, it’s a mixed bag. In the Deep South we’re a little short on freeze-cracked pavement, so I didn’t get to test the ride on rough road as much as I would have liked. Despite this, the car felt thoroughly composed over the bumps I did encounter. This was another area of noticeable improvement over the previous generation. That feeling of flouncy, floppy suspension response typical of the old car is much reduced. It didn’t quite live up to the standards of the Focii or the Cruzes that I have ridden in, but I’d hesitate to render a final verdict without having taken the Corolla over a truly rough stretch of road. I will say that the handling is still the most tedious part of the Corolla experience. You rotate the steering wheel, and the car changes direction. If you want feedback, look elsewhere. The brakes are definitely more inspiring though, with a solid pedal feel no doubt helped by the tested car’s 4-wheel discs.

  This car was equipped with the simulated paddle shift option for Toyota’s new CVT. To its credit, it feels remarkably like the shift-it-yourself systems in other cars with conventional torque-converter automatics. Blip the paddle, and the gearchange feels just like a cog swap in an old-school box. If you enjoy those systems, you’ll appreciate the one in this car. As for myself, I can’t really escape the artificiality of the process. When allowed to do its thing, the CVT is a fine automatic transmission that isn’t intrusive or annoying. It will be a perfectly acceptable replacement for the much-maligned 4-speed, which is still in the fleet-level trims. There is some delay in response when you mash the throttle, but not any more than in most automatics. Like many compacts these days, there’s an “Eco” button on the dash that lights up to tell you you’re not driving like a nutcase. The good news is that a true 6-speed manual is available in this trim level, a nice concession to enthusiasts.

 With $860 in freight charges and a $299 set of floor mats, the tested car stickered for $20,869. For that you get Entune with a 6.1” touchscreen, USB, Bluetooth, and an auxiliary jack. You also get the “shiftable” CVT, backup camera, heated power mirrors, keyless entry, daytime running and fog lights, and 4-wheel discs. It’s not the bargain in this segment, but not the priciest either; about in the middle, in true Corolla fashion. The strongest argument I can make for this car is the seats, in addition to the traditional economy and reliability. The sensibility and comfort of the revised interior combined with the newly stylish exterior has gotten me to seriously consider it as a possible successor to my xA; I couldn’t have said that about the previous generation. I didn’t win the eponymous raffle. Even so, I managed to score a nifty logo towel as a consolation prize; you can judge if my opinion has been bought off. More importantly, the test drive got me, an enthusiast, to take the Corolla seriously once again.

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QOTD: Why There Will Be No “Made In China” Lexus Products Mon, 05 May 2014 14:02:35 +0000 01-lexus-nx-concept-1

Currently, there is only one Lexus plant outside of Japan. A Toyota factory in Cambridge, Ontario makes the Lexus RX crossover, while Toyota’s Georgetown, Kentucky plant will come online in 2015. Like other Japanese auto makers, Toyota is moving towards a localization of its production facilities, but one thing they won’t be doing is producing Lexus vehicles in China.

Speaking at the Beijing Auto Show, Lexus head Tokuo Fukuichi said

“We are often asked whether we plan to manufacture Lexus cars in China. But the question is whether our brand has earned the trust of customers. If a brand is really trusted, it can sell its products wherever they are manufactured. But Lexus has not yet achieved such a status.” 

Building an automotive luxury brand is a decades long process. Audi is an overnight success nearly 40 years in the making, while Infiniti is now on the slow, long road to lifting themselves up out of the doldrums of Tier 2 luxury. Lexus has arguably been the most successful Japanese effort at a Tier 1 luxury brand, but they still have work to do. In world markets (specifically Western Europe), Lexus does not enjoy the same footing as it does in the United States, and has only been on sale in Japan since 2005.

In Fukuichi’s estimation, Audi, BMW and Mercedes-Benz (not to mention, Cadillac and Infiniti) can all do what Lexus cannot: build cars in China without harming brand perception. This is a big problem for Lexus – it must import its cars from Japan (and the NAFTA zone) and sell them at a higher price thanks to import tariffs and other duties. But it’s also a deliberate calculation on the part of Lexus.

If any of the German brands suffered quality problems from Chinese made cars, their customers would likely forgive them, due to the burning desire to have four rings, a three pointed star or two blue triangles on the hood of their car. But nobody feels the same pull for the stylized “L”.

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Ward’s Auto: Texas Is The American Equivalent Of China Tue, 29 Apr 2014 18:27:58 +0000 texas

Toyota’s decision to shift sales operations to Texas has been the subject of much hand-wringing over the past few days, but the high-water mark for hate speech so far has come from Christie Schweinsberg at Ward’s Auto.

Quoth Mrs. Schweinsberg,

The news, first reported by Bloomberg, that Toyota will be moving many of its Southern California-based sales and marketing positions to Plano, TX, is shocking for a number of reasons.

The most obvious to me is this is an automaker that constantly preaches its commitment to the environment, taking a large chunk of jobs from what is one of the most eco-friendly states in the union to the U.S.’s equivalent of China…. If the No.1 Japanese automaker really did pull the plug on its Torrance operations for tax reasons, we’ll know what “green” status really counts in Toyota City.

It’s also possible that Toyota is moving away from California to reduce the impact that its water consumption is surely having on California’s water table, which is at its lowest point in recorded history. Alternately, perhaps Toyota wants to be closer to where they build trucks. What’s even less clear than Toyota’s reason for moving would be the decision on the part of the Ward’s editorial staff to openly denigrate both Texas and China by painting the latter as an environmental hellhole (which it may well be) and the former as its moral equivalent. Perhaps the best clue we’ll get comes from Mrs. Schweinsberg’s description of California elsewhere in the text:

an optimal environment to work and have fun

Tell that to the migrant workers who live beneath the poverty line inland while they destroy their bodies and health toiling in 120-degree weather… oh, who am I kidding! All of California is like Los Angeles! It’s an optimal environment to work and have fun!

California good, Texas baaaaaaaaad!

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WSJ: We’re Right Mon, 28 Apr 2014 04:37:43 +0000 tercel

Our article on a prospective Toyota Motor Sales move to Texas now has some support from the Wall Street Journal.

The WSJ doesn’t know much more than we do but they have this:

The company confirmed that it was restructuring its marketing organization. It said employees “whose positions are significantly different in the new organization have been provided with several options, including applying for opportunities within the new marketing organization or in other departments at TMS or Toyota Financial Services.”

Toyota said it was also offering redundancy packages to employees. The reorganization is set to take effect Thursday, the company said.

More news as it’s available.

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