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 Apr 2014 11:48:14 +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 New York 2014: 2015 Toyota Camry Revealed Wed, 16 Apr 2014 14:27:20 +0000 2015-Toyota-Camry-18

Toyota’s champion revealed its new look before the world and those in attendance at the 2014 New York Auto Show. Beneath the new Camry’s updated, more aggressive appearance, Toyota added spot welds throughout the chassis for added stiffness as well as a revised suspension, all of which is aimed at improving handling and ride quality.

The SE trim will continue going into the 2015 model year, paired alongside the premium XSE, while the hybrid will receive some of the SE’s performance goodies when all three enter showrooms later this year. The engine options will remain the same, however: 2.5-liter four-pot, 3.5-liter V6, and 2.5-liter Atkinson cycle hybrid motor.

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Toyota Looking To Conquer Africa Tue, 15 Apr 2014 11:58:19 +0000 Toyota Land Cruiser 79 Bakkie

Though Toyota already has a presence in South Africa, the automaker is eyeing the last untapped market in the world: The African continent.

Automotive News reports Toyota patriarch Shochiro Toyoda gave his son, current president Akio Toyoda, a mission last year to explore markets outside of the “Asia-Europe-America” sphere, especially those where the younger Toyoda had not visited. His travels took him to a knockdown factory in Kenya, where there are 40 cars per 1,000 people according to IHS Automotive, laying the early groundwork for an all-out campaign to get as much of the final frontier as possible.

Success in the market may have to come in the long term, however; IHS predicts GDP per capita in Sub-Saharan Africa won’t reach the threshold of $3,000, as well as the ownership rate of 70 units per 1,000 people, until 2030 at the earliest. Toyota Africa CEO Johan van Zyl, who is scouting for new factory locations outside of South Africa, knows this reality well:

It’s a growing market, a market with a future. We have quite an ambitious [annual sales] target. But we must also understand, this is not going to happen overnight. We have to put the right things in place. And that is what we are busy doing, to ensure that we have the right foundation for the business in the future in Africa.

In the meantime, the automaker will launch the Quest compact in South Africa next month. The Quest — based upon the previous-gen Corolla — will help boost production towards full capacity at Toyota’s Durban plant; while max capacity is 220,000 annually, current production is 160,000 units per year. Unlike many auto makers, Toyota is not pursuing a new brand or platform for their new, low-cost car.

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Toyota Unveils New Duo Of Fuel-Efficient Engines Fri, 11 Apr 2014 10:30:57 +0000 1.3L_gasoline_engine

Toyota has unveiled this week two new fuel-efficient gasoline engines that will serve as the basis for as many as 14 global powerplants by 2015, and boost economy by 10 percent.

Automotive News reports the two engines — 1.3-liter four-pot and 1-liter three-pot — are Atkinson cycle powerplants co-developed with partner Daihatsu, and feature fuel-efficiency goodies such as EGR, VVT and stop-start technology.

On the power front — especially since Atkinson cycle engines are more known for their efficiency than for destroying ‘Ring times — the Toyota engines will deliver high compression ratios of 13.5 for the larger engine, 11.5 for the smaller. In turn, thermal efficiency in the duo will hit a maximum of 38 percent and 37 percent, respectively.

As for where the duo and their children will reside, expect the home market to have the first crack via the automaker’s line of non-hybrid compacts before taking the global stage the following year in both non-hybrid and hybrid vehicles, as well as larger premium offerings.

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Analysis: Toyota Digs In, As Union Vote At Canadian Plants Put On Hold Fri, 04 Apr 2014 11:45:22 +0000 kojiqv858rlto26haud9-7407123

Unifor has put their union certification vote on hold for Toyota Canada’s manufacturing plants, amid claims by Toyota that the size of the bargaining unit is much larger than expected – derailing Unifor’s assertion that they have met the required threshold for a vote.

According to the Windsor Star, Toyota submitted the names of 7,550 workers that would be eligible for to vote on the union. Unifor initially estimated that 6,500 workers would be part of the bargaining unit, and its claims of being able to produce signed union cards for 40 percent of Toyota’s workforce (the minimum number required by the Ontario Labour Relations Board) were based on this figure.

But Toyota’s new figure now means Unifor has to regroup. According to one labor expert interviewed by the paper, Unifor can challenge that number. Unifor President Jerry Dias said that the company will verify that the workers named are eligible to cast a ballot. The Japanese Automobile Manufacturing Association claims that Toyota employs about 7,400 people at its two plants in Cambridge and Woodstock Ontario, though Dias said that based on the fact that 15 to 20 percent of those workers aren’t eligible to be part of a bargaining unit, Unifor arrived at their number of 6,500.

Prior attempts to unionize Toyota plants, by the CAW and another union, both failed when they too learned that they underestimated the size of the bargaining unit. Tony Faria, co-director of the Office of Automotive Research at the University of Windsor, told the Star that Toyota may be fattening the ranks to get to a higher number.

“I would have to say Toyota is including people who don’t work anywhere close to an assembly line. I presume it could be legitimate. Those people could be part of a bargaining unit.”

Speaking to ReutersToyota spokesman Greig Mordue said that Toyota had hired 1,000 new contract workers and transferred 1,000 to “permanent” status since 2013.

While Dias said that there is “no timetable” for a vote, the move comes as the opening shot in what is likely to be a protracted battle to keep Unifor out of Toyota’s plants. The battle between Toyota and Unifor will not attract the attention and fanfare that the UAW did in their efforts to organize Volkswagen’s Chattanooga assembly plant, the stakes are just as high.

No Canadian transplant has ever been organized, and past efforts at Toyota and Honda have been unsuccessful. Honda in particular has waged a major campaign to shut out organizing efforts. Other sources tell TTAC that Honda is simply better at keeping their hourly workers happy.

During our look into Honda’s dealings with the CAW, one industry observer we spoke to (on the condition of anonymity, due to their ongoing work in the Canadian auto industry) explained the importance of keeping Unifor out, from the perspective of Japanese plant managers

“It runs counter to the Japanese concept of loyalty,” our source said. “The whole idea is that if you’re loyal to the company, they’ll look out for you and your best interests. The workers shouldn’t need a union for that.” Honda also doesn’t want an outside force interfering in the way their plants are run. As our source put it “…[Organizing] interferes with the management structure of the plant itself – which is unacceptable to them.” As for what would happen if Alliston, or another Honda plant unionized? “Well,” said my source “remember what happened to Wal-Mart in Quebec?”

Apparently, that same mentality – including a willingness to shut the plant down – is still in play. Toyota’s opening move is to launch a challenge to Unifor under Canadian privacy laws. As Reuters explains

Mordue said the company would ask Unifor to return the information it now has on Toyota workers, and may challenge the process under privacy laws.

“As part of the process under the Labour Relations Act we’re obliged to provide a full list of every team member in the bargaining unit,” said Mordue.

Mordue said the list included the names, work locations and positions of all of Toyota’s production and maintenance workers, whether they are on leave and the last day they worked.

“More concerning is that Mr. Dias has indicated that he fully intends to use this list in his ongoing unionization efforts,” said Mordue. “We think this is a serious privacy issue and one we’ll be taking up under privacy legislation.”

While Dias told Reuters that Unifor is entitled to the information by law, it is indicative of the kind of battle that Toyota is prepared to wage to keep Unifor out of their plants. Mounting a legal challenge like this, even with its own in-house counsel, is a costly and complex effort – but one that Toyota feels is worth pursuing.

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Toyoda: Recalls Changed Thinking On Safety, Customer Focus Fri, 21 Mar 2014 12:15:46 +0000 Akio Toyoda

One day after Toyota agreed to pay a record $1.2 billion in a settlement with the U.S. Justice Department resolving a criminal probe into the automaker’s handling of a recall involving unintentional acceleration in its vehicles, president Akio Toyoda proclaimed the recalls changed Toyota for the better.

Automotive News reports Toyoda, speaking before the Japan Automobile Manufacturers Association this week, said the recalls “marked a shift in how Toyota and the industry think about safety”:

The criteria for recalls used to be compliance with laws or whether there are technical problems. Now, I think it has become whether the products can assure customers peace of mind.

Regarding recalls overall, Toyoda stated they were good for the “long-term perspective of the automotive industry’s sustainable development,” noting the tool allows for product improvement and finding countermeasures from problems that arise down the line.

Though he remained silent on the settlement, Toyoda said the experience prompted Toyota to alter its approach to quality:

I think it provided a turning point for us to go back to our basic philosophy of “customers come first.” It is getting more and more important to handle recalls by seeing things from our customers’ point of view.

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Toyota Dominates Consumer Reports Used Car Recommendations Tue, 18 Mar 2014 13:07:02 +0000 2014 Toyota Camry

Several Toyota models dominated this year’s Consumer Reports list of used car recommendations, with 11 out of 28 overall belonging to the automaker’s Scion, Lexus and namesake brands.

Automotive News reports the 2011-2012 Camry and 2010-2011 Camry Hybrid among the best sedans between $15,000 and $20,000, while the 2006-2007 Lexus RX shares the same pricing space with the non-turbo 2009-2010 Subaru Forester. The 2004-2007 Prius, 2004-2006 Scion xB and the Pontiac Vibe/Toyota Matrix twins all took the $10,000 or less small car category, while the 2008-2009 Highlander Hybrid, 2011 Avalon and 2006 Lexus LS took their respective segment spots for vehicles between $20,000 and $25,000.

Overall, all but three of the 28 recommended used cars were made in Japan or South Korea; the 2011-2012 Lincoln MKZ, 2012 Ford Fusion Hybrid and the aforementioned Pontiac Vibe were the only domestics to make the recommendation list.

Consumer Reports also unveiled their “worst of the worst” used car picks, where all but six were made by the Detroit Three, including the Chevrolet Cruze 1.8-liter and Impala, the Chrysler/Dodge trio of minivans, and the orphaned Saturn Outlook and Relay. BMW, Mercedes-Benz, Volkswagen and MINI make up the remainder of the 21 picks to avoid.

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Uchiyamada: Hybrids Soon Reaching 20 Percent Of Global Sales Tue, 11 Mar 2014 15:00:23 +0000 2014 Toyota Prius v

The father of the Prius and Toyota chairman Takeshi Uchiyamada foresees hybrid sales climbing from 13 percent of global sales today to 20 percent in the near future.

Automotive News Europe reports that while hybrids make up a good part of sales in the United States and Japan, they are currently a niche market in Europe in the face of equal- or better-performing diesels with lower price tags. However, Uchiyamada believes so strongly in his forecast that he didn’t factor plug-in hybrids in to his forecast, nor give a separate outlook for plug-ins.

Speaking of plug-in hybrids, Uchiyamada believes the key to success lies in higher volumes, especially among suppliers:

Suppliers need higher volumes to slash costs of components specific to plug-in models, including batteries that should be bigger and more capable than the ones used in traditional hybrids.

Regarding the Prius, Uchiyamada said the project — known as Project G21 — was a challenge, beginning with the proposal that the future Prius would net “one and a half times better fuel economy than anything that had existed before,” only to be told by top management to double the proposed number. Then, after a successful debut at the 1995 Tokyo Auto Show, he and his team spent 49 days trying to get the proto-Prius to move, finally doing so near the end of that year, “but only for 500 meters.”

Today, with 25 hybrids between Toyota and its premium brand Lexus, as well as a global total of over 6 million hybrids sold, Uchiyamada may have aged out of the title bestowed unto him regarding the Prius:

Maybe I am the grandfather by now.

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Japanese Automakers Find New Export Base, Opportunity In Mexico Tue, 11 Mar 2014 14:45:26 +0000 Mazda3s Loading Onto Three-Tiered Train Car

Within four months of each other, Honda, Mazda and Nissan have opened new factories in Mexico, taking advantage of the opportunities within the nation’s automotive industry to grow a new export base into the United States, Latin America and Europe while also gaining ground in the rapidly expanding local market, all in direct challenge to the Detroit Three and other automakers on both sides of the border.

Automotive News reports Mexico will become the No. 1 exporting nation to the U.S. by 2015 at the earliest in large part due to the 605,000 units per year added by the three Japanese automakers. Meanwhile, Toyota will begin production in 2015 at Mazda’s newly opened Salamanca plant prior to deciding whether or not to build a new factory of their own. Nissan’s premium brand, Infiniti, may also set-up shop in Mexico.

In turn, the Japanese will see benefits from the move, from mitigating losses from a weaker yen in exports from home and greater profit due to cheap labor, to no tariffs on exports to the U.S. due to the North American Free Trade Agreement and improved product availability resulting from shorter distances between markets.

Speaking of free-trade agreements, Japanese automakers will also have access to some 44 countries and up to 40 million sales annually as a result of Mexico’s many agreements, allowing them to take on competitors in Latin America and Europe.

Finally, the Japanese have taken market share away from the Detroit Three in Mexico’s own automotive market, holding a collective 42 percent over Detroit’s 35 percent in 2013, when just four years earlier Detroit dominated with 57 percent of the market over Japan’s 23 percent.

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I Know You’ll Be Excited By Yet Another Article About The FT86 Fri, 07 Mar 2014 18:01:48 +0000 1-72288352-sm

As part of a partnership with the nice people at Road&Track, I’ll be writing an opinion piece for them once a week. Because, you know, I have opinions. Today’s rant recaps my attempt to help a friend buy an FR-S. Check it out. And before anybody asks — I stole the above photo from the R&T website, but it’s okay, because I’m the one driving.*

*It’s still not okay, probably.

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Toyota To Receive SkyActiv Engines For Upcoming Subcompact Fri, 07 Mar 2014 15:33:51 +0000 Mazda3 SKYACTIV engine, photo courtesy Michael Karesh

Toyota’s line of engine/body mashups continues, this time with their upcoming Mazda2-based subcompact powered by Mazda’s SkyActiv engine family.

Automotive News reports the subcompact, set to replace the current Yaris by 2016 at the latest, will be assembled alongside the new Mazda2 at Mazda’s newly opened Salamanca, Mexico factory. Approximately 50,000 of the factory’s total annual output of 230,000 units will be allocated to Toyota for the subcompact, with the SkyActiv transplant assembled on-site.

Though few details regarding either subcompact have been released, Mazda’s partnership with Toyota will allow the former to achieve greater economies of scale for the factory by supplying engines and possibly other SkyActiv-related components to Toyota.

Production for Toyota’s subcompact is set to begin next year, while Mazda2 production may begin as soon as the second half of 2014.

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Toyota Australia Engine Plant Moving To Thailand After 2017 Fri, 21 Feb 2014 16:30:37 +0000 Toyota Altona Engine Plant

Sources close to Toyota say the engine plant in Altona, Australia will likely be relocated to Siam Toyota Manufacturing in Thailand once the automaker ceases Australian manufacturing operations in 2017.

GoAuto reports that while the company hasn’t officially announced what will happen to the $331 million AUD engine plant thus far, executives inside Toyota Australia have Thailand in mind as a potential new home for some of the tooling currently in use. The factory exports 16 percent of its 2.5-liter four-cylinder engines to Thailand and Malaysia for fitment in Camry and Camry Hybrid models.

Another reason for the move to Thailand? While Toyota Australia builds 100,000 Camry, Camry Hybrid and Aurion models annualy — 70 percent for export markets, such as the Middle East — Toyota Thailand builds 880,000 units annually, exporting a wide range of vehicles to Australia and Association of Southeast Asian Nations — or ASEAN — member states. Furthermore, a free trade agreement between the two countries means vehicles, such as the HiLux and the Corolla, from Thailand enter Australian ports duty-free.

The plant, partially funded by a $63 million AUD contribution from Australia’s Green Car Innovation Fund and opened at this time last year, will close halfway through its expected lifespan of 10 years in 2017, shedding 2,500 jobs with thousands more down the local supply chain in the process.

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It’s Getting Hot In Here, So Turn Off All Your Motors — And Your ABS, Too Sat, 15 Feb 2014 17:04:12 +0000 Image courtesy Priuschat

Toyota had an odd pair of recalls this week, highlighting both the increasing importance of software within the automobile and further reinforcing a pet theory held by your humble author.

The substance of the recalls can be found on Toyota’s website, but here are the money shots:

  • Toyota will update the motor/generator control ECU and hybrid control ECU software on certain Model Year 2010-2014 Prius vehicles. The software’s current settings could result in higher thermal stress in certain transistors, potentially causing them to become damaged. If this happens, various warning lights will illuminate and the vehicle can enter a failsafe mode. In rare circumstances, the hybrid system might shut down while the vehicle is being driven, resulting in the loss of power and the vehicle coming to a stop.
  • Toyota will update the skid control ECU software on certain 2012 Toyota RAV4, 2012-2013 Toyota Tacoma, and 2012-2013 Lexus RX 350 models in order to address an electronic circuit condition that can cause the Vehicle Stability Control, Anti-lock Brake, and Traction Control functions to intermittently turn off. If these systems are off, standard braking operation remains fully functional.

Stuff like this is why engineering products for automobiles is about the worst career in the world. Not only are you faced with uncompromising cost controls, weight targets, and space constraints, you also have to consider the fact that your end user will be anywhere from Fairbanks to Death Valley with his foot flat to the floor, dead leaves in the radiator inlets, and dirty oil sloshing below the minimum mark in the sump. It’s nothing short of miraculous that cars work as well as they do, really.

In the case of the Prius, we have a situation where, presumably, too much current is being fed through something too close to a transistor, or perhaps the transistor is being too heavily loaded and overheating, the same way you can make the bottom of your laptop too hot to touch doing video editing in realtime, engaging in brute-force attacks on encrypted documents, or trying to load the various crazy Flash stuff embedded on this here website. Either way, it’s too hot to handle, so the system decides to lay off on the computing and/or the power transfer until the situation improves.

The other recall would appear to involve a potential “electronic circuit condition”. Allow me to take a wild-ass guess and say that it probably is a condition where a combination of inputs to the software creates a loop or a race condition. The latter term has nothing to do with civil rights or green flags; more a situation where a couple of variables are fighting it out for supremacy. When that happens, from the perspective of the user, the software simply goes out to lunch. Blue screen of death, endless spinning beachball, a Flappy Bird stuck in mid-air eternally because your phone rang right as you were also trying to cue up the next Fleet Foxes song. Of course, if the “user” is the ABS system in your Tacoma, then it, too, has to wait until the next reboot, which in the case of a car can range from a few minutes to the next time the battery is disconnected.

“Well what are you doing? Let’s get out of here!”

“Can’t. Computer’s jammed.”


“It says all its circuits are occupied. There’s no power anywhere in the ship.”

Ford moved away from the computer terminal, wiped a sleeve across his forehead and slumped back against the wall.

“Nothing we can do,” he said. He glared at nothing and bit his lip.

When Arthur had been a boy at school, long before the Earth had been demolished, he had used to play football. He had not been at all good at it, and his particular speciality had been scoring own goals in important matches. Whenever this happened he used to experience a peculiar tingling round the back of his neck that would slowly creep up across his cheeks and heat his brow. The image of mud and grass and lots of little jeering boys flinging it at him suddenly came vividly to his mind at this moment.

A peculiar tingling sensation at the back of his neck was creeping up across his cheeks and heating his brow.

He started to speak, and stopped.

He started to speak again and stopped again.

Finally he managed to speak.

“Er,” he said. He cleared his throat.

“Tell me,” he continued, and said it so nervously that the others all turned to stare at him. He glanced at the approaching yellow blob on the vision screen.

“Tell me,” he said again, “did the computer say what was occupying it? I just ask out of interest …”

Their eyes were riveted on him.

“And, er … well that’s it really, just asking.”

Zaphod put out a hand and held Arthur by the scruff of the neck.

“What have you done to it, Monkeyman?” he breathed.

“Well,” said Arthur, “nothing in fact. It’s just that I think a short while ago it was trying to work out how to …”


“Make me some tea.”

“That’s right guys,” the computer sang out suddenly, “just coping with that problem right now, and wow, it’s a biggy. Be with you in a while.” It lapsed back into a silence that was only matched for sheer intensity by the silence of the three people staring at Arthur Dent.

As if to relieve the tension, the Vogons chose that moment to start firing. — Douglas Adams, The Hitchhiker’s Giude To The Galaxy

Your humble author is pretty good at getting cars to enter software failure modes. I experienced it recently in both the Nissan Juke and the Infiniti Q50S, in each case under conditions of speed, driver inputs, and available traction that I would cheerfully characterize as “abusive”. In fact, I’d say that it’s easier, in general, to “break” the dynamic systems of a car through hard driving than it is to break anything else. I’ve had far more ABS or stability-control failures than I’ve had, say, front wheel bearing seizures or dropped driveshafts.

There’s a reason for this, and now it’s time for my pet theory. Believe it or not, I’ve done a little bit of professional software development in my life. This will come as a great surprise to all of you who have considered my squeaky voice, prickly disposition, and tendency to quote Douglas Adams to be infallible evidence of a life spent as a Rhodesian mercenary. Do me a favor and keep quiet about this around the ladies, I always tell them that I paid for my Porsches by doing figure modeling. In any event, I’ve made some bucks writing software and I’ve spent some miserable hours dealing with other peoples’ work and I’ve participated in everything from solo development to the current XP/Agile/Kanban/Pivotal idiocy that’s sweeping the industry.

Once upon a time, software was written by people who knew what they were doing, like Mel and his descendants. They were generally solitary, socially awkward fellows with strong awareness of TSR gaming. They were hugely effective at doing things like getting an Atari 2600 to run Pac-Man or writing operating system kernels that never crashed, but they weren’t terribly manageable and they could be real pricks when you got in their way. I once worked with a fellow who had been at the company in question for twenty-three years and had personally written a nontrivial percentage of the nine million lines of code that, when compiled, became our primary product. He was un-fire-able and everybody knew it. There were things that only he knew.

This kind of situation might work out well for designing bridges or building guitars (not that Paul Reed Smith appears to miss Joe Knaggs all that much, to use an inside-baseball example) but it’s hell on your average dipshit thirty-five-year-old middle manager, who has effectively zero leverage on the wizard in the basement. Therefore, a movement started in the software business about fifteen years ago to ensure that no more wizards were ever created. It works like this: Instead of hiring five guys who really know their job at seventy bucks an hour each, you hire a team of fifty drooling morons at seven bucks an hour each. You make them program in pairs, with one typing and the other once watching him type (yes! This is a real thing! It’s called “extreme programming”!) or you use a piece of software to give them each a tiny bit of the big project.

This is what you get from a management perspective: fifty reports who are all pathetically grateful for the work instead of five arrogant wizards, the ability to fire anybody you like at any time withouiret consequence, the ability to demand outrageous work hours and/or conditions, (I was just told that a major American corporation is introducing “bench seating” for its programmers, to save space) and a product that nominally fulfills the spec. This is what you get from a user perspective: the kind of crapware that requires updates twice a week to fix bugs introduced with the previous updates. Remember the days when you could buy software that simply worked, on a floppy disk or cartridge, with no updates required? Those were the wizards at work. Today, you get diverse teams of interchangeable, agile, open-office, skill-compatible resources that produce steaming piles of garbage.

Enough of the rant. I can’t wait for the day when I never have to touch a computer again to make a living. Admittedly, it will be because I’m a sixty-three-year-old Wal-Mart greeter. But I’m looking forward to it. Where were we? Oh yes. An embarrassing amount of the software in the cars we drive is outsourced to programming farms where the wizards were long ago cut loose. Modern auto manufacturers sweat every detail of the unibody and the tire specs and the thickness of the rear door glass, and they create modern engineering wonders which they then proceed to load up with the cloacal expulsions of moronic bench-seated 120-IQ “programmers”. It’s no accident that software updates make up a large number of recalls nowadays. The software’s written by people who expect a chance at a do-over, not realizing that a Toyota Prius is a little harder to update than, say, a useless Android app.

Given the increasing evidence of this problem, what will the manufacturers do? Will they resurrect the wizards? Bring the programming in-house? Restore pride to the profession? Hell no. The future belongs to Internet-connected cars seamlessly upgrading their firmware twice a week. It sounds very advanced, and it is. But if you want something that reliably gets you to work or pumps its own brakes on an icy road, you might want to stick with the old stuff.

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Next Generation 2016 Toyota Tundra To Share 5.0L Cummins Turbodiesel with Nissan Thu, 13 Feb 2014 14:02:16 +0000 983587_10151548891138579_994498399_n
WardsAuto reports that the next generation 2016 Toyota Tundra pickup will receive the Cummins 5.0L V8 turbodiesel for 2016, the same engine that will be powering the next Nissan Titan pickup, due for 2015. While Toyota had been working on a diesel engine with Hino, Toyota’s heavy-truck division, the economic crash of 2008 shelved the plans. With new found interest in light diesels and the new Ram EcoDiesel leading the way with favorable reviews and excellent fuel economy, Toyota looks to jump quickly into the light diesel truck market.

The new Cummins 5.0L V8 turbodiesel is confirmed to produce 300 hp and 500 ft lb of torque in the Titan, so we can expect similar numbers for the Toyota. Not only does this engine produce more torque than any gas motor in a light duty pickup, but even tops the Ram EcoDiesel’s 420 ft lb, making it the most powerful torquiest engine offered in any light duty pickup. This is a a strong move for Toyota and Nissan, possibly helping to bridge the gap between their half-ton pickups and Ford, GM and Ram’s heavier duty 3/4-ton pickups; an area where neither manufacturer currently offer a product.

Both Toyota and Nissan would like a larger chunk of the U.S. light truck market, which last year moved over six million trucks through dealer lots. For 2025, CAFE standards push for a fleet target of 54.5 MPG, making a fuel efficient diesel a necessity for Toyota. The Cummins is thought to a stop-gap for Toyota, as they reconsider their in-house diesel engine produced by their heavy-truck arm, Hino Trucks.

The 2008 economic crash was truly a game changer for light duty diesel engines, and we are just now beginning to see the effects.

Toyota had been working with Hino Trucks to produce a diesel engine for the Tundra, and had shown concepts of a 1-ton dually version of their then-new Tundra at the 2007 SEMA show. Plans for a heavy duty Tundra, along with the in-house diesel engine were shelved after the 2008 crash.

Ironically enough, the Cummins 5.0L V8 turbodiesel was originally destined for the Dodge Ram, and this will be the first time a Cummins motor has been sold in a pickup outside of the Ram. The engine was developed while Dodge and Nissan were planning to share a full-size truck chassis, but the ’09 bankruptcy sunk those plans, and Dodge was unhappy with the estimated fuel economy of the 5.0L Cummins. Nissan made the move to keep the engine.

Through Fiat ownership, who also owns VM Motori, the Ram 1500 received the 3.0L V6 turbodiesel  instead of the Cummins 5.0L V8 turbodiesel. The VM Motori 3.0L V6 turbodiesel was also destined for another home, GM. The 3.0L V6 turbodiesel was originally planned for use in the European Cadillac CTS, though GM also shelved its light diesel plans during its ’09 bankruptcy. Fiat and GM were 50/50 partners on VM Motori until September 2013, when Fiat announced GM would sell the remaining 50%.

And that wasn’t the only diesel GM shelved. Some may remember the Duramax 4.5L V8 turbodiesel GM had been brewing for its light trucks. GM was an early proponent for a modern light duty diesel, but it too was a victim of the ’09 bankruptcy. With new pressure from Ram, Toyota, and Nissan, it’s thought GM may dust off the Duramax 4.5L turbodiesel and bring it to market.

Sources say Ford is working on a light duty diesel as well, planning for a 2018 arrival. With new pressure from its competitors, it will be interesting to see if Ford can join the crowd in time.

2015 looks to be an interesting year in light duty pickups. We will see how the new 3.0L EcoDiesel fairs in light truck use, and both Toyota and Nissan should be rolling out their examples. We can only hope the pressure puts GM and Ford to work getting their light diesels ready.

As long as the price on the diesel option remains reasonable, light diesels should do well in half-ton pickups. Diesels offer superior fuel economy to their gas counterparts in nearly all conditions, especially under load. The Ram EcoDiesel is showing incredible (for a pickup) real world fuel economy numbers, with our own Alex Dykes seeing 29 mpg highway, and 24.2 mpg average in his review of the 2013 Ram Ecodiesel. This, along with superior torque figures to their gas counterparts, would give the average buyer a very decent towing option for those who aren’t ready to step up to the heavy duty trucks, with higher prices and substantially noisier heavy duty diesels.

Here’s a little anecdotal story about the Tundra in the lead photo. It is owned by my friend, and is built to be a mobile work shop for a variety of traveling work: From disaster insurance adjustment, to contracted construction work, to race-support at Pikes Peak and other events. It’s a work truck, through and through, with tool storage and 110v power to run electric power tools off of. One of the major reasons he didn’t go with a heavier duty diesel truck is simply because of the noise, “Man, this thing has to idle all the time while I work. Nobody likes to listen to the CLACKCLACKCLACK of a diesel truck. I just needed something quiet, dependable, and with a long bed. I don’t need a big diesel.” And it works admirably, I spent about 2,000 miles in it during our 2013 run at Pikes Peak with Rally Ready Motorsports. The only real fault with the truck was its horrific fuel economy with the 4.7L V8: with the bed cap and a fair payload it returned less than 13.5 mpg on the highway with speeds averaging 70 mph.

Had a light duty option been offered earlier, it would have fit this role perfect. The light duty work truck deserves a good diesel option.


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Toyota Shuttering Australian Factory By 2017, Local Industry Dead Mon, 10 Feb 2014 15:58:31 +0000 Toyota Landcruiser 70 Troop Carrier Workmate

Toyota announced Monday that as of 2017, the automaker will no longer manufacture any of their vehicles in Australia, driving in the final nail to the coffin containing the nation’s local automotive industry following similar announcements by Holden and Ford.

Toyota Australia head Max Yasuda and Toyota Motor Corporation head Akio Toyoda made the announcement at the automaker’s factory in Altona — a suburb of Melbourne — before an audience comprised of various media and the factory’s 4,200 employees. Yasuda claimed numerous factors in the decision, citing high costs of manufacturing, low economies of scale, increased competitiveness surrounding current and future free trade agreements, and the “unfavourable” Australian dollar as among the many reasons for the closures.

“We did everything that we could to transform our business, but the reality is that there are too many factors beyond our control that make it unviable to build cars in Australia,” Yasuda said. “Although the company has made profits in the past, our manufacturing operations have continued to be loss making despite our best efforts.”

The Australian Manufacturing Workers Union warned that Toyota’s complete exit from the nation’s manufacturing base would devastate not only those directly affected, but up and down the supply chain, as well. AMWU vehicle secretary Dave Smith added that the final result would be “a potential recession all along the south-eastern seaboard.” The Australian Council of Trade Unions also warned that the pullout would ultimately cost 50,000 jobs and erase $18.76 billion from the local economy.

On the government side, Industry Minister Ian Macfarlane said he was disappointed in the decision, and felt that the government would have been able to help had there been enough time to put a plan in place to keep Toyota manufacturing in Australia. Victoria Premier Denis Napthine concurred with Macfarlane’s sentiment and desire to have been able to work through the issue, and would be seeking a commitment from Australia’s coalition government — currently led by Prime Minister Tony Abbott — for a comprehensive adjustment package similar to the one made to Holden employees late last year.

On the subject of government subsidies, Abbott said his government had wanted Toyota to soldier onward, going as far to hold private talks with Yasuda as recently as hours before the announcement of the manufacturing pullout — contradicting what Abbott said in an earlier press conference regarding knowledge of the announcement — though as with Holden prior to its decision, paying the automaker any extra taxpayer dollars was ruled out.

Abbott said that while nothing could be said or done to “limit the devastation that so many people will feel” from the fallout of Toyota’s decision, he wanted everyone to remember that “while some businesses close, other businesses open, while some jobs end, other jobs start,” and that there would be “better days in the future.”

Opposition Leader Bill Shorten, proclaiming the Toyota closure an “unmitigated disaster,” offered this statement on the matter:

The car industry has died under the Abbott government — it’s a disgrace.

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Review: 2014 Toyota Highlander Mon, 10 Feb 2014 14:00:23 +0000 image(1)

One day, about a month ago, a vehicle that I had never really given much thought to entered my consciousness quite forcefully. My phone rang, and on the other end was a family member informing me that my sister-in-law had been involved in a serious auto accident. She had been traveling through an intersection when another motorist had run the red light going the opposite direction. It was a hard hit. In fact, the impact was severe enough to flip my sister-in-law’s car was onto its roof. What’s more, her three-year-old son, my nephew, had been in the back seat. They both left the accident totally unharmed.

Her car? A 1st gen Toyota Highlander. So, at least in part, I owe the safety and security of my extended family to the car-based Toyota mid-sized CUV.

Therefore, when I was invited to preview the new-for-2014 Highlander, I was interested to see what the hype was about—after all, companies don’t typically buy Super Bowl ad space and hire The Muppets for cars that aren’t critical to their corporate strategy. Toyota has been employing a two-pronged strategy for this segment for quite some time—the Body-On-Frame, rugged 4Runner, and the car-based, innocuous Highlander. The 4Runner has always appealed more to the male demographic, while the Highlander has been geared toward the ladies of the club. At first glance, it’s plain to see that Toyota has made a concerted effort to “butch up” the Highlander. The grill looks like the 4Runner’s, with a wide, gaping mouth. The doors now bulge out from the side, giving the whole vehicle a much more truck-like appearance. It’s also a little bigger, too—about half an inch wider and about 4 inches longer. Visually, it’s definitely a “love it or loathe it” look. While I’m probably likely to fall in the latter category, I do give Toyota credit for taking a creative risk with the appearance of the car. Where the previous generations of Highlander definitely faded into the background on any highway, this one will stand out.
The interior is where the Highlander really shines. On the XLE and Platinum level trims that I drove, the quality of the interior materials was second to none. It’s clear that a great deal of thought went into the layout of the dash. The XLE and Limited trims offer an eight inch, high-resolution touchscreen in the center, while the LE gets a six inch touchscreen. There is a neat little tray (I’m not really sure what else to call it) that extends all the way from the center of the dash to the passenger door that is ideal for all of your electronic gadgets. In fact, there’s even a portal cut neatly above the USB jacks that you can tidily tuck your cables through. When one drives as many different CUVs and sedans as I do, it’s the little details, the unique touches that stick in your mind. Toyota’s gift here to the OCD among us is what stuck with me.

Another dear friend of mine bought a new 2013 Highlander last year, and her main complaint is the lack of room in the second row. “It’s pretty embarrassing exposing my ass to the entire parking lot as I’m leaning over the cramped seats trying to buckle kids into carseats,” she frequently complains to me. “Don’t you know somebody at Toyota that could fix that?” Well, Beth, I can’t do anything about your 2013, but the engineers at Toyota must have heard enough complaints about the outgoing model that they made significant changes to both the legroom and the hip room of the second and third rows for the 2014 model. In fact, the second and third rows have both been moved back about three inches, and the cargo room behind the third row has also been increased by 34 percent for you Active LifeStyle Triathlete types—more than enough room for a stroller or a golf bag. There’s also heated seating available for the second row on the Platinum package Premium trim level, which is a cool touch.
However, I was most interested in how the thing drives. I daily drive one of the Highlander’s competitors (a Ford Flex), so I was interested to see how they compared. While driving the Limited around the beachside streets of Santa Barbara, the Highlander felt very wide, wide enough to be slightly concerning on some of the side streets. Otherwise, it was charming. Noise reduction was a big concern with the new model, and with 30% more sound deadening and a new windshield, Toyota hit it out of the park. It’s almost too quiet—I felt completely isolated from the environment. However, I can imagine that there would be times where that would be exactly what the doctor ordered. Even with the big Panoramic roof open, noise remained at a minimum. The driver’s seat provides good, comfortable cushioning, but it still uses the lumbar controls that I disliked so much in the Avalon. Braking was surprisingly mushy, so much so that I really had to apply serious pressure on the left pedal when decelerating from speeds above thirty-five or so.

Taking the Highlander into the mountains was a less pleasant experience. There are two engine options available (three if you count the Hybrid, which I did not get any seat time with), a 2.5 liter four cylinder that produces 185 horsepower and 184 ft lbs of torque (LE trim only), and a 3.5 liter six cylinder that makes 270 horsepower and 248 ft lbs of torque (available on all trim levels). With a curb weight of somewhere between 4,100 and 4,500 lbs, depending on trim, even the sixer felt quite underpowered (Toyota, perhaps wisely, did not provide a four cylinder to drive). The six-speed automatic transmission downshifted with even the mildest grade, which would be fine if it downshifted and stayed there. It didn’t. I experienced nearly constant searching and shifting as I went up and down the mountains toward Santa Ynez. The best way to get a consistently pleasant driving experience from the engine/transmission combination was to hammer it in a way that I doubt many CUV drivers are looking to do. This also caused the electric power steering to behave in rather bizarre fashion. I found that I was able to move the wheel several degrees in either direction before the front wheels would react. Again, not a huge concern for most CUV drivers, but when you’re trying to take mountain corners at higher speeds, it’s disconcerting.
The new for 2014 double-wishbone rear suspension was immediately noticeable—the rear end of the car bounced around much less than one would expect from such a large vehicle. In fact, I found myself wishing that Toyota had put a wishbone suspension up front, too. The considerable weight over the nose of the car (weight distribution numbers were not available at the time of this review) made the MacPherson struts work extra hard in corners, and body roll was significant.

Toyota is expecting this refreshed model to be a big hit in the mid-sized CUV segment, a segment that is critical to the success of any automaker. They are looking for the 2014 to sell about ten percent more than the outgoing 2013 did, or over 140,000 units, all of which will be built in Franklin, Indiana. As the only big time competitor in this segment to be totally refreshed, it’s reasonable to expect that they will hit their target. They managed to keep the price tag under $30K for the LE, sneaking in at $29,215 for a FWD four cylinder. However, they’ve also managed to squeak over the $40k barrier for the first time with the Limited, topping out at $41,100 for the AWD model, which is an increase of $1,700 over the outgoing model. There’s also the new Platinum Limited, which comes in at $43,590 (with optional An available Driver Technology Package that includes a Pre- Collision system with Dynamic Radar Cruise Control, Lane Departure Alert with Automatic High Beam Headlights, and Safety Connect), and the Hybrid Limited Platinum, which just flies under the $50K barrier at $49,790. Whew. I would expect that the bulk of Highlander sales will come from the LE Plus and XLE trims, at $34,200 and $37,500, respectively.

My impressions of the Highlander? If you’re not planning to take it up and down any mountains anytime soon, or do any towing with it, it’s right up there with the best in class, including the Explorer and the Grand Cherokee. Despite the new styling, it’s hard to see it taking any business from its stablemate, the 4Runner—they’re still very different vehicles. This new Highlander will do nothing to keep satisfied Highlander drivers from buying another one, and will do a lot to convince happy owners of competitors to take a look. That is, assuming, they can get past that ugly grille.

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You Put Your Hybrid In My Camry SE! Wed, 05 Feb 2014 06:21:38 +0000 2014_5_Toyota_Camry_Hybrid_SE_LTD_001

The last time we talked about a Camry SE on these less-than distinguished pages, the resulting article upset one of our contributors (a certain “Nurburgring race instructor”) so much that he quit the site in protest. That certainly wasn’t my intention. But I know that our hearts will go on.

Of all the comments that particular test attracted, both on and off this website, I don’t recall any of them having anything to do with a desire for hybrid power. Presumably, however, there is someone out there who wants the sportier appearance of the Camry SE and the now-legendary economy and durability of the Hybrid Synergy Drive, because now it’s possible to combine the two.

The resulting “2014.5 Camry Hybrid SE Limited Edition” will be limited to five thousand units at a price of $27,845. This represents something under two percent of Camry production for the year, so they should be an easy sell. If you have money to blow like Birdman, an additional $2215 will get you a moonroof and Display Audio.

Overall it seems like a pretty sound idea, although the virtues we discovered when running the plain-Jane SE around Shenandoah Road Course probably aren’t quite as apparent here. If any TTACers step up and buy one, we’d sure like to hear about it.

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Toyota Instructs Dealers To Halt Sales Of Eight Models (Updated With Additional Information) Thu, 30 Jan 2014 23:11:56 +0000 girlfire

A lot of Toyota dealers are going to find it difficult to grind out their end-of-month goals, thanks to a stop-sale directive from the company that covers eight different models. Approximately 36,000 vehicles in dealer stock and an unknown number of additional vehicles inbound to dealers will have to be held.

Automotive News reports that a South Korean supplier notified Toyota that the parts used in its seat heaters did not meet United States standards for flame retardation. The company is preparing to replace the seat heaters with regulations-compliant parts.

The affected vehicles:

  • 2013 and 2014 Camry sedans
  • 2013 and 2014 Camry hybrids
  • 2013 and 2014 Avalon sedans
  • 2013 and 2014 Avalon hybrids
  • 2013 and 2014 Corolla
  • 2013 and 2014 Sienna
  • 2013 and 2014 Tundra
  • 2013 and 2014 Tacoma

Vehicles on the above list with heated fabric seats built since August 2012 are at risk. NHTSA has yet to issue any findings or opinions on the matter.

If you’re in the market for a fabric-interior Toyota with heated seats, you’re facing a wait. If you’re in the market for a leather-interior Toyota with heated seats, now’s the time to move. Like now. Oh, what a feeling!

Update: Toyota contacted us regarding the use of the word “fire” in the initial post, noting that “The fabric in the seats is flame retardant, it is a matter of HOW flame retardant when tested. Per NHTSA regulations Toyota will file a petition for a determination that this non-compliance issue is inconsequential relative to motor vehicle safety. NHTSA will determine if the petition will be accepted or denied.” To prevent a misunderstanding, we’ve amended the text. The picture at the top of the article stays, but now only because we enjoy the music of Alicia Keys— JB

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Honda, Nissan, Toyota Set Production Record Against Weakening Yen Thu, 23 Jan 2014 16:32:38 +0000 Toyota Baja California Assembly Line

As the yen weakened against the dollar for a second consecutive year, Honda, Nissan and Toyota all set production records in their North American plants in 2013, according to Automotive News.

Outputs for the trio last year include 1.86 million units for Toyota, 1.78 million for Honda, and 1.47 million for Nissan, though gains on the production line didn’t match sales in the United States. However, exports took up the slack in U.S. showrooms, with more units sent to growing markets such as South Korea, Saudi Arabia and Latin America.

As far as individual models are concerned, Honda built 466,695 Accords at their Marysville, Ohio plant in 2013, around 20,000 more than the number of Camrys Toyota workers at the automaker’s Georgetown, Ky. plant.

The Japanese Three expanded their presence in North America as insulation against a falling yen, which fell 17.6 percent against the dollar in 2013 after falling 11 percent in 2012, as well as protection from overseas production disruptions that could affect North American output. In fact, Honda will soon open a plant in Celaya, Mexico to build the Fit, with the long-awaited 2015 NSX to be assembled in an experimental plant in Marysville.

Regarding Hyundai and Kia, the two South Korean automakers set a few records of their own in North America, including 399,495 Sonatas and Elantras leaving Hyundai’s Montgomery, Ala. plant, and 105,647 Santa Fes rolling out of the Kia line in West Point, Ga.

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NAIAS 2014: Toyota FT-1 Concept, Bigger Brother To FRS? Mon, 13 Jan 2014 15:31:06 +0000 Toyota-FT-1-Concept-02

The “Future Toyota” numero uno, or FT-1, is supposed to be Toyota’s top RWD sports car. At least in concept form. What we get is a taste of Toyota’s future design language, calling the FT-1 the  “spiritual pace car for Toyota Global Design.” It’s almost a caricature of the FRS, with its spin on long hood/short deck styling, but with attention paid to housing some interesting aerodynamic tricks. Strategically placed vents that point at the use of extractors, and rear diffuser work stand out. There’s even some F1 styling cues: obviously in the powerful nose, but also in the rear LED “rain light.” Powertrain options are held quiet, but out of the hood peeks a longitudinally mounted engine for everyone to place bets on…


Is that an intake housing a velocity-stacked V10? Certainly looks too wide to be a valve cover for some inline motor, sorry 2JZ fans. The interior carries on the F1 theme in the control layout over the wheel, with a fighter jet inspired glass Heads Up Display (HUD) high up in the dash.

What ever it is, it’s aimed to be Toyota’s halo car. With the next NSX around the corner, could we see a return of the mighty Supra name plate? See the video for a quick look at the interior details and displays.

Click here to view the embedded video.

Toyota-FT-1-Concept-03 Toyota-FT-1-Concept-02 Toyota-FT-1-Concept-01 Toyota-FT-1-Concept-01_001 Toyota-FT-1-Concept-05_001 Toyota-FT-1-Concept-02_001 Toyota-FT-1-Concept-04 Toyota-FT-1-Concept-04_001 Toyota-FT-1-Concept-03_001 Toyota-FT-1-Concept-17 Toyota-FT-1-Concept-14 Toyota-FT-1-Concept-12 Toyota-FT-1-Concept-11 Toyota-FT-1-Concept-10 Toyota-FT-1-Concept-08 Toyota-FT-1-Concept-07_001 Toyota-FT-1-Concept-26 ]]> 26
First Drive Video Review: 2014 Toyota Highlander Fri, 20 Dec 2013 20:25:18 +0000

Click here to view the embedded video.

TTAC had its first bite at the 2014 Highlander recently. Be sure to bookmark for the written review in the coming days and a full-on drive review based on a week in Toyota’s new crossover in a few months.

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Toyota to Debut Supra Concept at 2014 Detroit Auto Show Thu, 19 Dec 2013 10:30:50 +0000 1993_JZA80_Toyota_Supra_SZ

The last time Toyota debuted a concept thought to be the return of the Supra — the FT-HS, to be exact — the end result was a three-pack of boxer-powered, rear-driven madness with a low price point. Could Toyota’s latest upcoming concept for the 2014 Detroit Auto Show finally be the one?

According to insiders within Toyota, the rear-driven supercar concept was conceived in the automaker’s California-based CLATY design studio. Alas, no images have been leaked to the automotive press so far, nor word of what might be under the bonnet beyond rumor of a hybrid drivetrain made for high performance. Said drivetrain could also be the first product from the partnership struck between Toyota and BMW earlier this year to share car-building and hybrid tech for their respective entrants into the sports car game.

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Toyota Aiming For Modest Annual Sales Of Fuel Cell Cars Thu, 12 Dec 2013 12:15:57 +0000 Toyota FCV Concept

Toyota believes fuel cells are the future, becoming a competitive technology up against other zero-emission compliance tech by 2030 at the latest. In fact, the automaker plans to hedge their bets in the near future by setting an annual sales goal of 5,000 to 10,000 fuel-cell powered machines beginning in 2015.

Part of this push is due to falling costs in fuel cell technology; when the above-pictured FCV enters showrooms in early 2015, just over half the $99,000 price tag will come from its smaller fuel cell, down from just over $1 million in 2007 when the tech debuted in the first of many concepts. Component sharing also helps to maintain a lower cost of entry, though Toyota says the FCV won’t be underpinned by the Prius due to differing structures between the two.

The automaker hopes sales of the FCV and other future fuel cell vehicles will rise to tens of thousands of units by the start of the 2020s, no doubt helped by a push to reduce costs through R&D to one-fifth of what a fuel cell costs to make at this point in time.

The FCV won’t be alone in this march toward progress; Honda plans to deliver a successor the FCX Clarity in the same year as the former’s debut, while Hyundai will lease 1,000 Tucsons fitted with fuel cells worldwide in 2014.

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The Cars We’ve Lost in 2013 Tue, 10 Dec 2013 12:30:12 +0000 2012 Acura ZDX-014

Every year, new cars arrive in the showrooms. Some are brand new to the world, others go through evolutions and revolutions. Yet, every year, some cars are sent off to the showroom in the sky.

This year, we’ve lost seven vehicles. Some died due to poor sales, some to improper marketing, and others to horrible execution. 2014 will bring about the deaths of these seven vehicles.

  • Acura ZDX 
  • Cadillac Escalade EXT 
  • Nissan Altima Coupe  
  • Toyota Matrix 
  • Volkswagen Routan
  • Volvo C30
  • Volvo C70

In some cases, like the ZDX and Routan, the product was poorly conceived and faced an equally poor reception in the marketplace.  In other cases, like the Escalade EXT and Altima Coupe, they were based on previous generation cars and the business case wasn’t strong enough to justify a replacement. The Volvo twins and the Matrix weren’t necessarily bad cars, but they were long in the tooth and faced declining sales, thus leading to their euthanization.

2013 Volvo C30 Polestar. Photo courtesy Car and Driver. 2013 Toyota Matrix 2012 Acura ZDX 2013 Volvo C70 2013 Nissan Altima Coupe 2013 Cadillac Escalade EXT Volkswagen Routan. Photo courtesy ]]> 105
Toyota Camry Still King of the Showroom, Challengers Closing In Wed, 04 Dec 2013 15:44:08 +0000 2014 Toyota Camry

For the 12 year in a row, the Toyota Camry is the No. 1 best-selling car in the United States, but how long its reign continues will depend on how well its competitors can do in their attempt to dethrone the king of the showroom.

The current total sold for 2013 is 378,520 units, with its closest competitor — the Honda Accord — trailing by just over 44,000. Toyota has stated that they intend to keep the crown for as long as possible, and have acted accordingly by aggressively ramping up incentives beginning last month.

The result? A quarter of its overall sales occurred during the Black Thanksgiving weekend, with similar results expected around Christmas time when the automaker holds their annual Toyotathon. Earlier this year, Toyota said it was prepared to defend the Camry’s crown with “whatever it takes“.

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Tales of Vehicular Mayhem – The Land Cruiser Tue, 26 Nov 2013 06:06:03 +0000 Ah. Muffy's perfect SUV

Ah. Muffy’s perfect SUV

Toyota is one of the largest manufacturers of cars in the world. It’s not a surprise, especially if you have travelled out of the US. They are everywhere. I have only owned three Toyotas; a coma-inducing silver Camry DX, and two MKII Supras.

Despite my lack of ownership, I have spent a sizeable portion of my career abusing Toyotas. Maybe it is latent Nissan loyalty surfacing as abuse, Dad was a Datsun salesman before I was born and continued in one form or another until I graduated from High School. To Toyota’s credit, they have taken it all without complaint.

A notable case was an innocent preppy green and gold Land Cruiser. An aircraft electrical malfunction resulted in an unscheduled stop in Boise Idaho and gave us a week to kill. A ladies NCAA tourney had snatched up all the econoboxes, so the unsuspecting agency offered up the keys to a new 2003 Toyota Land Cruiser. I grabbed them, signed the contract and was out of there faster than a Taylor Swift romance.

Opposite the runway of Boise Airport is McGowan Field, a multi-branch National Guard Center. Just across the road from McGowan Field, was a tank driving course.


My crew mate Randy and I established a goal of coating the roof of the Landcruiser with mud. While that seems simple, the rooster tails required for this take a lot of effort to generate, and it has to be done sideways. Luckily it had recently rained and the black soil responded well to throttle.

For the next hour the Landcruiser tolerated powerslides, Rockfords, doughnuts and even a little air time. We only got stuck once…ok, three times but managed to free the barge with minimum fuss. Inside, my partner in crime and I laughed manically in complete luxury. The heated leather seats were wide and comfortable, but offered no lateral support. The stereo was excellent, and it was eerily quiet, save for our cackling. After a time, our sides hurt from laughing and the course offered no further challenges. We opened the windows and sat on the door sills to see if we met our goal. The roof was covered, mission accomplished.

We plodded the now soil-colored SUV from the proving grounds and onto West McGowen Rd. As we proceeded back to the base entrance, two Chevy Luminas in USAF Security Forces livery emerged from the base, lights flashing and in a hurry. They passed us, nosedived and executed a “you are soooo busted” 180 in unison. We pulled over.

As the Technical Sergeant approached, I could actually hear his Lieutenant screaming over the radio on his belt. It seemed the “El Tee” wanted us to be locked in a room, so he could throw away the room. The Tech Sergeant was much more accommodating and clearly impressed with the level of filth we had caked onto the mall-rated SUV.

“Where were you coming from sir?” As if he didn’t know, he had been dispatched because of us.

I pointed to the field.

“You can’t drive there, that’s government property. That’s trespassing.” I mentioned there were no signs, warnings or fences of any nature to indicate such restrictions, and that I was in fact, a government employee.

“Why were you out there doing that?” He inquired.

“It’s a rental.” I replied. He smiled.

That answer with a genuine lack of attitude seemed to satisfy him. Over the radio he assured his LT that we had been dealt with in a most stern manner. The paperwork reflected that he had, but it was an administrative slap on the wrist. He also pointed to a ridgeline in the distance and said if I really wanted to go off-roading, that’s where the real trails were. As he handed me the ticket, he was grinning. He added a “Now drive carefully sir.”

The owner of that car wash should have put his child through a semester of DeVry with the quarters I spent cleaning the Land Cruiser. Save for the windows that required some additional attention (we had put them down while covered in grime), it was all done via hose to avoid scratching the finish with the brush. It took twice as long take it off as it had to put it there, but the SUV was returned in pristine condition.

Which is better than the Chrysler Intrepid in Atlanta a few years later…but that is another story.

W. Christian Mental Ward has owned over 70 cars and destroyed most of them. That Philosophy degree of his landed him on the infamous AWACS, the Frisbee of freedom. As a result he has driven a lot of  rented cars, if you bought this one, rest assured the abuse was nothing beyond the mechanical limits of the vehicle.

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