The Truth About Cars » Aqua The Truth About Cars is dedicated to providing candid, unbiased automobile reviews and the latest in auto industry news. Wed, 16 Jul 2014 16:33:07 +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 » Aqua First Hybrid Yaris Rolls Off Line In France Tue, 10 Apr 2012 16:52:12 +0000 TTACers have known it for quite some while: Europeans won’t get a Prius C / Aqua compact hybrid, they will get a hybrid Yaris. Today, the first one rolled off the line at Toyota’s plant in Valenciennes, in the north of France.

The first Yaris hybrid won’t have it far, it is already on the way to a customer in the north of France. The Valenciennes plant is proud of being the first French and first European automotive manufacturing facility to produce a full hybrid vehicle for the B-segment.

Easy for them to say: Hybrids are not necessarily in high demand in diesel-obsessed Europe, something the Yaris hopes to change.

The Yaris Hybrid uses the downsized Toyota H HSD system, people learned to love in the Prius c / Aqua. It delivers (ahem) game-changing numbers: CO2 emissions of only 79 g/km, and a fuel consumption of 3.1 l/100km in the urban cycle.

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Toyota Roasts GM: More Prius c Sold In Three Days Than Volts In A Month Fri, 16 Mar 2012 17:12:21 +0000

Toyota is getting frisky. Per a press release, Toyota U.S.A. reports brisk sales of the game-changing Prius c compact hybrid. Then, TMS goes on to say that “In its first three days on the market, it sold 1,201 units, making it one Toyota’s fastest-selling vehicles and eclipsing Chevrolet Volt and Nissan Leaf sales for the entire month of February.”

This is highly unusual for the usually very careful and buttoned-up company. Even in private talks and after five Asahi Super Dry, you never hear anything negative about a competitor from a Toyota-san, or, for that matter, anything at all.

The comment that the Priuc c sold more cars in three days than the Volt in a month is most likely a subtle ribbing in the direction of Detroit. There, GM CEO Dan Akerson had claimed that “Toyota sold about the same amount of Prius in its first year as the Volt in its first year.”

The original Toyota Prius was launched in Japan in December 1997. In its first year, the Prius sold some 18,000 cars. The Chevrolet Volt was launched in the U.S. in December 2010. In its first year, the Chevrolet Volt had sold some 8,000 cars. That would be less than half of what the Prius sold in 1998.

After we had pointed out that small discrepancy, a vociferous posse of Akerson apologists appeared, claiming that their CEO had referred to the U.S. introduction of the Prius. Too bad that they had not checked those data either: In the U.S., the first recorded sales month of the Prius was July 2000. Sales Prius U.S. July 2000 through June 2001: 12,968, data according to Automotive News.

Any which way you spin it, Akerson was wrong. Not in the eyes of his trusted acolytes: Some claim to this day that 8,000 is more that 18,000 or 13,000. The new math must be contagious.

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One Year After The Disaster, A Visit To A Symbol Of The Recovery: Toyota’s Prius C Plant Sun, 11 Mar 2012 15:04:19 +0000

Today, at 2:46 pm, Japan came to a stand-still, again. Trains and subways stopped. People did fold their hands, faced in the general direction of the northeastern coast of Tohoku, and said a silent prayer. Japan and the world marked the one year anniversary of the earthquake and tsunami that left whole towns razed, more than 19,000 people dead or missing, 344,000 people displaced, and a large area around the destroyed Fukushima Daiichi power plant off-limits for decades, if not permanently.

Writers often like to equate the power released by the quake to the nuclear bombs that had been dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki. Depending on who you read and believe, it was anywhere between 31,700 and 600 million Hiroshima bombs. Large parts of the coastal areas are dotted with huge, neatly stacked piles of rubble which nobody wants to take and nobody knows what to do with. The devastation was so big that it turned into an attraction on Google Earth.  Considering the immense damage, it is amazing how quickly the country did rebound. On Friday, I visited what was presented to me as an emblem of the amazing turn-around, Toyota’s plant in Kanegasaki, Iwate Prefecture. Here, 1,700 employees are working overtime to build Toyota’s Aqua / Prius c, for which everybody is screaming.

“The Aqua has turned into a symbol of our recovery,” says Tetsuo Hattori, CEO of Kanto Auto Works, one of the members of the sprawling Toyota Group empire. His company is the sole manufacturer of the Aqua / Prius c compact hybrid that itself is turning into a symbol for the turn-around of Toyota. Touted as the world’s cheapest and most fuel-efficient hybrid car, the Aqua sold 13,485 units in January, the first month after its launch. It sold 21,951 in February. It could have sold many more, would the factory in Kanegasaki be able to build more. Toyota sits on 120,000 backorders for Japan alone.

The two lines in Kanegasaki have an annual capacity of 300,000 units, that comes out to 25,000 cars a month. With overtime, output can be raised to 30,000 per month. The plant made 30,000 Aqua in January, 30,000 Aqua in February and will make 30,000 Aqua in March. 24,000 of those stay in Japan. 6,000 are being exported.

The plant is supposed to make other cars than the Aqua. The Iwate plant is also responsible for the production of the Blade, Ist/Scion xD, the Belta/Yaris Sedan, and Ractis. These cars had to make way for the Aqua. All traces of these cars have vanished from the factory.

From the two manufacturing lines to the tree-lined lots where finished cars await shipment, it is Aqua/Prius c as far as the eye can see. Asked what he will do to create more capacity for the Aqua, Hattori says that production of the Ractis may be gradually shifted to the Kanto Auto Works plant in Higashi Fuji. Here, old Toyota standbys such as the Century, or the Crown Comfort, popular with notoriously overpaid Japanese taxi drivers, are being built. A look at the numbers shows that shifting production will bring no relief. It simply cements the status quo. Nevertheless, Hattori flatly denies rumors that the Aqua/Prius c might be built elsewhere than at Kanto Auto Works, or even in a different plant than in Iwate.

We are up in the north of Japan. 500 miles westward, across the sea, is Siberia. The ground is still covered with snow. That snow is “a pain in the neck,” says plant manager Kazutoshi Yoshida. He will keep 1,500 tons of the pain in the neck literally under wraps, and use water from the melting snow to cool the air-conditioning in summer. Once the snow is gone, it will be time for the goats. 12 of them do lawn care duty without using any fuel. They also “create a relaxed mood amongst our workers.” I don’t dare to ask what happens to the well-fed goats come wintertime.

A year ago, I had visited Toyota’s new plant in Ohira, 70 miles south of Kanegasaki. Back then, I had speculated that the plant may be a pilot plant. This time, that title is official. “We want to be the global model plant for compact vehicles,” says a proud Hattori, and his plant manager Yoshida says it again. The workers are highly trained, encouraged to acquire a multitude of skill sets. Workers regularly act as production engineers, providing creative solutions. “This is not something that can happen in emerging nations,” says Yoshida. In 2007, 60 percent of what this plant made was exported. Now, the rate is down to 30 percent, with further reductions likely unless the yen gets weaker and the dollar stronger. If this plant can’t export cars, at least it can export plants.

Some 50 miles from the coast, and sheltered by two mountain ranges, the plant survived the earthquake only slightly damaged. It was back up four days after the quake. Then, it had to wait for parts from less lucky suppliers. One factor in its survivability is the gas-fired cogeneration plant that can provide two thirds of the plant’s electrical power. It will be put to the test this summer. In March and April, the last two of Japan’s 54 nuclear power plants will go off-line for maintenance, leaving Japan’s power grid in an even more precarious state than last summer.

Last Friday, the plant opened to outside visitors for the first time since March 11, 2011. As our plant tour draws to an end, the line stops, workers fold their hands, bow their heads, and face east in silent prayer. It is 14:26, time to remember the dead. But it is Friday, two days ahead of the anniversary.

“Tomorrow, we work with one shift,” says my guide. “On Sunday, people want to rest.“

No work on Sunday. A year after the monster quake, normalcy has returned to Japan. In this part of Iwate, at least.

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Review (Of Sorts): Prius C, Japanese Spec Thu, 19 Jan 2012 16:03:15 +0000

Yesterday, I wrote about Toyota allegedly cranking up Japanese production of its new Aqua a.k.a. Prius C to 30,000 a month. After I did this, jargon vigilantes protested the use of “engineering feat.” Keep protesting. Today, we will see why the Prius C is an engineering feat. We will also learn how the height of batteries and gas tanks can influence aerodynamics.

In order to research these phenomena, I traveled on your behalf all the way to scenic Keihinmakuhari, Chiba, Japan.

There, in the parking lot of the New Otani Hotel, Toyota had parked a whole fleet of feats.

Soon, this reporter would be able to test drive the Japanese version of the Prius C, which will land on U.S. shores some time this spring. Allegedly, it will come with an EPA city fuel economy rating of 53 mpg, and a starting MSRP of $19,000.Which is said to be one of the best fuel economies on this tortured planet, or, to mollify the jargon vigilantes, pretty darn good.

These get-togethers are being conducted in the charmingly vanilla Toyota style: You meet in a nondescript location, you receive a stack of paper and a quick PowerPoint. Then you get a car. The beauty of these events is that while the members of the Fourth Estate are out driving, you can sit down with the people who actually created that car and talk to them.

We had already talked to Chief Engineer Satoshi Ogiso months ago. (Attention jargon vigilantes: Dirty word in headline of linked article!) Therefore, I had a sit-down chat with the Prius C Project Manager, Masahiko Yanagihara.

Right away, Yanagihara denied The Nikkei’s 30,000 a month claim, in a very diplomatic way.

Yanagihara did not even mention The Nikkei. He however pointed out that the Aqua/Prius C is being built in the Iwate plant of subsidiary Kanto Auto Works in Kanegasaki, and only there. (Keep that in mind, we will revisit this.) He also noted that this specific plant has a maximum capacity of 30,000 units a month, “if we do overtime and such.” He then added that “other cars, such as the Ractis, Belta, Blade etc.” are also being made there. Then he looked me in the eye. A non-verbal “Wakarimashita ka?” (capisce?)


Let’s revisit this: The Aqua/Prius C is being built in the Iwate plant of subsidiary Kanto Auto Works in Kanegasaki, and only there. That includes all cars that are exported. The Prius C is and for the foreseeable future will not be built anywhere else. Now you know how many Toyota expects to sell. For now.

But why (vigilantes, start heating the tar and plucking the feathers) is a compact car with a 1.5 liter 74 hp Atkinson cycle engine an engineering feat? I’ll let you in on  a little industry secret: Building good large cars is fairly easy. Building good small cars requires heavy engineering. In a way, large car owners are the guinea pigs for the small car masses. Large car owners get the latest technology in its expensive, awkward and bulky self (think first generation cell phones). Once technology reaches the masses, it must be elegant, small, and affordable. (Think the phone in your pocket.)

To make all the gadgetry fit, the engineers at Toyota put the Hybrid drive on a diet. Even after shrinking, fitting the components wasn’t easy.

The battery had no room behind the seat, therefore, it had to go under the rear seats. Together with the gas tank. (If you think a gas tank and a hot battery are strange under-the seat fellows: Toyota put both in their own steel casing.) When Toyota did that, battery and tank did not quite fit under the seats. “No problem,” would the usual answer be, “let’s raise the rear seats a few inches.” Not good. The rear roofline would have to be raised also in order to avoid heads bouncing into the headliner. That again would have ruined the beautiful 0.28 drag coefficient.

Solving this simple-sounding, but nasty conundrum did cost Toyota 1.5 years. In that time, extra inches and banging heads were eliminated by reducing the height of the battery and that of the gas tank. (Now you know why the Prius C has a 36 liter tank, whereas, say, the Yaris has a 42 liter tank.) Moving the (heavy) battery and the (heavy when full) tank below the rear seat had another advantage: It lowered the center of gravity, which makes that miserly car rather fun to drive. There are many more engineering feats in this car, but this review (of sorts) is already approaching 800 words, and I have yet to drive it.

At 10.7 seconds from zero to 100 km, the car won’t win drag races, but hey, it’s about the same as the Prius (and, come to think of it, the MK I Golf GTI.) Now if you think this is a lead-in to my test drive, then I must disappoint you. Sure, I drove the car. But driving through Chiba while more or less observing the 50 km/h (31 mph) speed limit is no test drive. I am also not willing to criticize the haptic qualities of the plastic used in a trim which you will never see, unless you move to Japan. We will leave this in the hands of our master reviewer Alex Dykes, who hopefully soon will get his hands on, and his butt in a Prius C in the proper U.S. spec.


Toyota paid for a tank of gas (which was hardly used), a boxed lunch and two coffees. I paid the train fare from my home to Chiba, and attention.

The Prius C, Japanese spec. Picture courtesy Bertel Schmitt The Prius C, Japanese spec. Picture courtesy Bertel Schmitt Engine of the Prius C, Japanese spec. Picture courtesy Bertel Schmitt The Prius C, Japanese spec. Picture courtesy Bertel Schmitt The Prius C, Japanese spec. Picture courtesy Bertel Schmitt I was there. The Prius C, Japanese spec. Picture courtesy Bertel Schmitt The Prius C, Japanese spec. Picture courtesy Bertel Schmitt The Prius C, Japanese spec. Picture courtesy Bertel Schmitt The Prius C, Japanese spec. Picture courtesy Bertel Schmitt Tank and battery, Prius C, Japanese spec. Picture courtesy Bertel Schmitt The Prius C, Japanese spec. Picture courtesy Bertel Schmitt The Prius C, Japanese spec. Picture courtesy Bertel Schmitt The Prius C, Japanese spec. Picture courtesy Bertel Schmitt Prius C. Yellow side. Picture courtesy Bertel Schmitt The Prius C, Japanese spec. Engine. Picture courtesy Bertel Schmitt aqua Zemanta Related Posts Thumbnail ]]> 78
Toyota Cranks Up Production Of The Prius C Wed, 18 Jan 2012 12:20:27 +0000 The compact hybrid Prius C went on sale in Japan (where it is called Aqua) last month. If you would buy one today in Japan, you would get your car some time in late spring. Toyota already has orders for more than 60,000. In order to not let the line grow longer, Toyota is cranking up its assembly lines at the Kanto Auto Works in Iwate Prefecture.

According to The Nikkei [sub] Toyota will make around 20,000 units of the new car this month, but will increase production to some 30,000 units in in February and March.

The car, touted as one of the most fuel-efficient cars of the world, should become available in the U.S. some time this spring. It will come with an EPA city fuel economy rating of 53 mpg, and a starting  MSRP of $19,000. Packaging the hybrid technology into a compact, and bringing the price down was an amazing engineering feat by the group around Toyota’s Chief Engineer Satoshi Ogiso.

I will drive the car tomorrow somewhere by the waterfront in Tokyo. It will be the Japanese spec, with the steering wheel on the wrong side and all. I will try not to take the thunder away from Alex Dykes, who has been invited by Toyota to attend a test drive of an undisclosed car, in the first week of February.  My hunch is it’s the Prius C.

In Japan, the regular Prius Hybrid is the best-selling model. The current production volume makes the Aqua/Prius C already the second-most produced car in Japan. If production can keep up with demand, the Prius C will most likely take the crown as Japan’s  #1 car this year.

Jim Lentz and the Prius C. Picture courtesy Toyota Prius C reveal, NAIAS. Picture courtesy Toyota Nice tree. Jim Lentz and the Prius C. Picture courtesy Toyota Zemanta Related Posts Thumbnail



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Toyota’s Prius Chief Engineer Reveals The Future Of The Automobile. Part Three: A Game Changer In The Compact Class Tue, 15 Nov 2011 12:07:07 +0000

Back on Friday, Toyota’s Chief Engineer Satoshi Ogiso and TTAC talked about the past of the Prius, and the future of the automobile. Back to the here and now: We also talked about a car that has been a (badly kept) secret until today: A compact hybrid that suddenly makes former miser-meisters (such as the Honda Insight or the Mazda2) look like gas guzzlers. It is the Toyota Aqua, probably called Prius C when and if it lands on other shores.

With an unheard-of fuel efficiency of 35 km/L (82.3 mpg) as measured under the new Japanese JC08 test cycle, or 40 km/L (94 mpg) when measured in the 10-15 cycle, the car is 30 percent better than its segment competitors.

  • Honda’s new compact Insight hybrid delivers 27.2 km/L (64 mpg) as measured under the JC08 test cycle and 31 km/L (72.9 mpg) as when measured in the 10-15 cycle.
  • Mazda’s new Demio, better known as the Mazda2 stateside, wrings 25 km/L (JC08, 58.8 mpg) or 30km/L (10-15, 70.5 mpg) out of a conventional engine using Mazda’s Skyactiv technology.

These numbers are definitely non-EPA. Ogiso wouldn’t even hazard a guess for the EPA number.

Ogiso worked his team hard to get to these numbers:

“Usually, people look at the competition and want to be a few percent better. I set the Aqua target at 40 kilometers per liter. That is 30 percent better than the competition. Everybody said: How can you set that target so high? Why is that number needed? If the competition is at 30 kilometers, aren’t 35 good enough?”

Not for Ogiso and not for Toyota, which is finding its old fighting spirit after the many setbacks it had to endure. Not only is the car a super-saver at the pump, it also will be priced “affordably” when it will be launched in Japan in late December 2011. The exact price remains under wraps, and may not even be announced at the Tokyo Motor Show. The Nikkei [sub] had figured it will cost $4,000 less than the Prius.

Remember when Ogiso thought back to the bad old pre-Prius days?

“At the time, the battery, motor, controller, these components were all huge and heavy. I drew a compact car, 4 meters or so long, with enough interior for 4 passengers. The rest of the space was very tiny, and I had to stuff these huge components somewhere.“

With the Aqua, he had to repeat that feat again.

“Cost, size, and weight is greatly reduced from the original Prius.”

Prius hybrid technology had to be further miniaturized to fit into a car that is 157.3 inches long (Prius: 175.6) and has a slightly shorter 100 inch wheelbase (Prius: 106.3).

Ogiso thinks this car will send other makers back to their CAD stations:

“The Prius is the game changer in the midsize class. The Aqua will be the game changer in the compact class in Japan.”

Just in Japan? What about the rest of the world? Ogiso cites “currency and production issues” that might delay the arrival of a Prius C on other shores. A Prius C  is tied to where Prius hybrids are made, and that’s Japan, Thailand and soon China. The expensive parts, the power trains come solely from Japan. The high yen doesn’t make Japanese exports low cost. That’s one thing Ogiso can’t engineer.

The 2012 Toyota Aqua / Prius C . Picture courtesy Toyota The 2012 Toyota Aqua / Prius C . Picture courtesy Toyota The 2012 Toyota Aqua / Prius C . Picture courtesy Toyota The 2012 Toyota Aqua / Prius C . Picture courtesy Toyota The 2012 Toyota Aqua / Prius C . Picture courtesy Toyota The 2012 Toyota Aqua / Prius C . Picture courtesy Toyota The 2012 Toyota Aqua / Prius C . Picture courtesy Toyota The 2012 Toyota Aqua / Prius C . Picture courtesy Toyota The 2012 Toyota Aqua / Prius C . Picture courtesy Toyota Satoshi Ogiso. Picture courtesy Bertel Schmitt Zemanta Related Posts Thumbnail ]]> 29
Toyota Rumored To Launch 94 mpg Compact Hybrid Wed, 28 Sep 2011 12:44:26 +0000

Toyota will allegedly launch a new compact hybrid in January that will deliver a record low gasoline consumption of 40 km per liter.  On a straight (non EPA) conversion, that would be a jaw-dropping 94 miles per gallon.

What’s less, the car “will not only beat the Prius’ 32km fuel economy, but also likely sell for around 1.7 million yen, around 300,000 yen cheaper than the Prius,” says The Nikkei [sub].

Converted to dollars, that would be around $4,000 less. The Nikkei says the car will be called “Aqua.” Toyota’s official lips are zipped.

Again, according to the Nikkei, the alleged Aqua “will use the same powertrain as the highly popular Prius, helping to hold down development costs.”



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