Brock Yates called them “members of the Anti-Destination League.” You and I have our own pet names for the folks who dawdle along in the fast lane, oblivious to those around them.
I have recently deduced that the auto-demographics of Left Lane Blockers has shifted. Over the past 30 years, no automobile has come close to the most common clogger: the Cadillac. Was the traditional Caddy owner taught to drive in the left lane as teen? Does owning the “Standard of the World” give you some entitlement to annoy your fellow man? Whatever the reason, I am here to announce that the Cadillac’s reign is over. All hail the new King of the Left Lane Realm: (Read More…)
In the days and weeks after March 11 2011, when a giant fist wiped out large swaths of Japan’s northeastern coast, and sent the power grid into a near-coma from which the Japanese patient has yet to recover, electric and hybrid vehicles were pressed into a new mission as emergency power supplies. People in the stricken areas used the batteries of their Toyota Estima hybrid minivan, or the much bigger battery of the Nissan Leaf, as a power source for cell phones and laptops when the regular power was out. Ever since, Japanese became infatuated with the idea of rigging a car to a house – to power the house, if needed. One year later, houses are ready to take charge from a car. (Read More…)
More than just a mere model, the Honda Civic is an institution. With 9 million examples sold on American shores, and nearly 20 million worldwide, calling it “Honda’s most important car” doesn’t express the importance of getting the 2012 redesign right. Michael got his hands on the EX model last May, but today we’re looking at the green poster child of the Honda line-up. Visit TTAC next week as we get gaseous with the Civic CNG.
The last time TTAC took a look at the Camry Hybrid was back in 2006. For 2012 Toyota has completely redesigned the Camry from the “sporty” SE model to the refrigerator-white base model Michael Karesh took for a spin. The base model’s low price appeals to dealers while the SE allows Toyota to believe the Camry is something other than basic transportation. So what about the hybrid? The gasoline/electric Camry is aimed squarely at shoppers that want more green cred than a regular Camry can deliver and Prius shoppers looking for something more powerful and more traditional. One out of every seven Camrys sold in 2011 was a hybrid, with those numbers expected to grow it is imperative Toyota gets their baby-boomer hybrid just right.
In the geek world we have “Moore’s law” which states the number of transistors in ICs will double every two years. In the automotive world we have the bloat law. Every generation of a vehicle will get more powerful, heavier and physically larger than its predecessor, ultimately requiring the manufacturer to design an entirely new, smaller car to fill the void left by the original.
It’s the end of our commercial week and there’s a hybrid staring you down. No, the Prius v isn’t really a commercial vehicle, but there is a good reason it’s jammed in to this week of cargo haulers: 44 miles per gallon around town. Our own Michael Karesh snagged considerable seat time at a launch event last June, but pricing hadn’t been released at that time. So how much does it cost and what’s it like to live with for a week? And most importantly, is it any good at hauling cargo instead of kids?
The repeated stoppages of the Volt production triggered rumors that GM might discontinue the Volt altogether.
Then, Akerson did something really bad. Surprisingly, Akerson used Toyota as a benchmark and reportedly said that “Toyota sold about the same amount of Prius in its first year as the Volt in its first year.”
Utter nonsense. (Read More…)
A few years ago I was let in on a secret: Toyota’s dreams of world domination hinged on capturing hip young buyers interested in green tech and high fuel economy. Of course, Toyota’s hybrid plans have been the worst kept secret since In-N-Out’s “secret menu” and as a result, the green Gen Y boys and girls I know in Berkeley have been excited for years about a “baby Prius”. Well kids, the blue spaceship landed in La Jolla and Toyota invited us down to take a drive. Does a hybrid Yaris with more MPGs than you can shake a stick at have what it takes help Prius become Toyota’s best-selling nameplate? Let’s find out.
Today, Toyota started Chinese production of its third gen Prius hybrid. The car is being assembled at Toyota’s joint venture plant with FAW in frigid Changchun in China’s northern Jilin Province. Sales of the vehicle will begin in early 2012. (Read More…)
Yesterday, we met Toyota Chief Engineer Satoshi Ogiso in his office in Toyota City. He is responsible for all new technology at Toyota. Yesterday, we talked mostly about the past. Now, we talk about the future.
When I ask Ogiso what car we will be driving in the future, he whips out a chart. It’s a chart which I call “Peak Oil 2.0.” (Read More…)
“Look, when we started the Prius project in 1993, we did not even think of a hybrid system for the Prius. We did not set out to build a hybrid. We studied what was needed for the 21st century, and two things were certain: The need to protect the environment, and the need to bring consumption down. That’s all we knew, and you did not need to be a clairvoyant to know it.”
The man who told me this last Friday better become clairvoyant. On Satoshi Ogiso’s shoulders rests the future of Toyota. Ogiso is responsible for all new technology at Toyota. As Chief Engineer, he is in charge of the Prius and its many siblings, he is responsible for plug-in hybrids, EVs, fuel cell hybrid vehicles, anything apart from the aging internal combustion engine is his.
I meet Ogiso at the world headquarters of the (still, officially) world’s largest automaker in Toyota City. (Read More…)
Recent Toyota ads introducing the “Prius Family” have featured the Prius C Concept to represent the forthcoming compact Prius, which will bear only the most passing resemblance to the slick showcar. But if deception was Toyota’s game, the jig is up. Der Prius wird geschrumpft (shrunk), chortles Autobild, which says these images come from a Japanese brochure that was leaked to the web. And the car pictured does look far more production-Toyota-like than the decidedly Scionesque C Concept. Is it the real thing? Will ad-attentive Toyota fans wonder where the C Concept went? Will a compact hybrid sell well in any case? These pictures are worth a thousand questions…
Every time I drive a hybrid – EVERY time – someone asks: “so where do you plug it in?” It’s as if more than 10 years of hybrid sales in the USA have gone by without the public knowing that a hybrid is not an electric car. Finally, however, Toyota has announced there will be a hybrid Prius on sale in the US where the answer isn’t “um, you don’t, the gas goes in over there.” Now the answer will be: “you plug it in up here and put gas in back there.” Yep, the 2012 Plug-In Prius is coming, so be prepared for blank stares as passers-by try to process the information. Toyota tossed us the keys for a week’s drive in a pre-production version so we could see what the hype is all about.
Fortune [via CNN]‘s Alex Taylor III is clearly as disappointed as I was with Joe Nocera’s toothless, vaguely pro-Volt piece in last Sunday’s NY Times, and he’s riled up enough about it to lay down a savage call-out the Volt hype machine. In fact, it’s a less scientific, less comprehensive (and, by virtue of the passage of time, less speculative) version of a piece my father wrote in 2008, comparing the then-undelivered Volt with the also unlaunched 3rd gen Prius and Plug-In Prius. Taylor’s foil for the Volt is the plug-in Prius, which now arrives in less than a year, and in the eyes of the longtime industry writer, the contrast is stark:
Volt enthusiasts like to recite the fact that the Volt can go 35 miles on battery-power and then shift seamlessly into gasoline-engine mode, saving on gas and reducing emissions of greenhouse gases. It is an impressive technological improvement but one that is already obsolete.