Tag: Toyota

By on July 17, 2017

2017 Toyota Land Cruiser, Images: Garrett Martin and Seth Parks

There are more than 40 brands offering 230-some nameplates in America today. Not a single one is a direct Land Cruiser competitor. So what is the Land Cruiser’s mission?

It’s not aimed at the towing crowd. A $50,000 full-size half-ton anything can tow more than the Land Cruiser’s 8,100 lbs. It’s not for hauling people. A Sequoia, or any other full-size SUV, offers more interior volume, with at least $20,000 left over. It’s not for brand snobs, as Toyota offers the nearly identical and vastly more popular Lexus LX for those people. And no, it’s not even for the radical off-road enthusiast. There are Wranglers, Tacomas, 4Runners, and Raptors with off-road capabilities to match the impressive Land Cruiser.

The market analysis justifying the Land Cruiser is contained somewhere deep inside Toyota’s North America’s product planning offices in Plano, Texas. But until a disgruntled employee or careless contractor leaks the file, we will simply need to speculate.

The Land Cruiser appeared in commercial quantities in the 1950’s and from there went on to earn its reputation for go-anywhere durability. I can personally attest to the utility and capability of the 70-Series Land Cruiser based on my time in a high-roof troopie that shrugged off poor driver decisions in Malawi (always check water crossings before going wheels wet) and baboons (there is a fine line between curiosity and malevolence). But today’s North American spec Land Cruiser originated with the J50, which bifurcated the Land Cruiser lineup back in 1967. Thereafter, the Land Cruiser badge would be placed on a growing range of light commercial vehicles (J20/30/40/70), as well as on easier to live with yet highly capable passenger-oriented SUVs (J50/60/80/90/120/150/100/200).

None of these products were designed for the North American market. And today’s Land Cruiser is no different. It receives minor adaptions to confirm to the peculiarities of our market. But at 112 inches, its wheelbase is four to 10 inches shorter than other full-size SUVs. And its width and overall length are likewise three-quarter size. Sure, it has Toyota’s 381 horsepower 5.7-liter gas V8 and a speedo that reads in mph, but these alterations hardly conceal a vehicle as close to African spec as you will find on a dealer lot in North America. This is one of the few unadulterated foreign market vehicles journalists and enthusiasts pine for.

The average Toyota dealer sells seven of these rigs annually. (Read More…)

By on July 12, 2017

2018 Toyota Camry Georgetown Kentucky assembly line - Image: ToyotaAs Toyota watches its RAV4 quickly climb sales charts, the Japanese behemoth estimates it will sell fewer copies of its new-for-2018 eighth-generation Camry than it has in six years.

According to Reuters, Toyota is targeting 30,000 monthly Camry sales in the U.S. once the 2018 model fully takes over. That’s 360,000 Camry sales per year, well below the 412,000-unit average Toyota has managed over the last half-decade; 7-percent below last year’s output.

Toyota considers the thought of overall midsize sedan demise “inconceivable” but is by no means blind to the segment’s evolution. Recent deaths, such as the Chrysler 200 and Dodge Avenger, followed the disappearance of the Mitsubishi Galant, Suzuki Kizashi, and domestic nameplate removals, as well. Remember the Mercury Milan, Pontiac G6, and Saturn Aura?

But as the midsize segment struggles, Toyota looks down from its lofty perch and sees the odds increasingly turning in the Camry’s favor. “If other automakers left the sedan market to focus more on SUVs,” Camry chief engineer Masato Katsumata says, “that would be an opportunity to expand our market share of the segment.” (Read More…)

By on July 12, 2017

2016 Toyota Avalon - Image: ToyotaStiffer structures, a lower center of gravity for improved handling, more shared components, and a 20-percent cost cut are all benefits of the Toyota New Global Architecture. Eventually, Toyota wants all of its front-wheel-drive vehicles to use TNGA as a starting point.

You first witnessed TNGA in the 2016 Toyota Prius, then in the 2018 Toyota C-HR, and most recently in the 2018 Toyota Camry that’s trickling into dealers now.

But beyond the ability to improve existing nameplates and spawn dramatically different new cars, TNGA is also intended to improve plant efficiency. Yet a massive shift at Toyota’s Georgetown, Kentucky assembly plant, detailed by Wards Auto, hasn’t yet resulted in the efficiency rewards.

“When we change over in the future with the Avalon, we’ll be able to pull that efficiency out of (the operation),” Toyota Motor Manufacturing Kentucky president Wil James told Wards.

Ah yes, Avalon. How could we forget? (Read More…)

By on July 10, 2017

2018 Toyota Camry production line - Image: ToyotaAs all-new 2018 Toyota Camrys begin to trickle into Toyota’s U.S. dealers over the coming weeks, take a close look at the VIN.

It’s viewable through the windshield on the driver’s side. See that first number? It’s likely a 4, which means this Camry was built in Georgetown, Kentucky.

But there’s a chance that the VIN on the new 2018 Camry sitting on your local Toyota dealer’s lot doesn’t begin with a number at all.

You’re looking at the once-coveted J-VIN. Ooh la la. (Read More…)

By on July 10, 2017

1991 Toyota Camry in Colorado wrecking yard, RH front view - ©2017 Murilee Martin - The Truth About Cars
When I poke through automotive graveyards in search of the rare and the interesting, I always take a look at late-1980s/early-1990s Toyota Camrys for the very rare All-Trac all-wheel-drive versions and extremely rare manual-transmission versions.

So rare that its existence in the wild is merely theoretical, however, is the V6-powered manual-transmission Camry… and I just found one in Denver. Let’s take a look! (Read More…)

By on July 9, 2017

Toyota Camry Assembly Factory Georgetown

Jim Lentz, CEO of Toyota Motor North America, is going to great lengths to tell the world his company is only going to get better in the years to come — proving to his employer that he knows exactly what his job entails. In addition to explaining how the brand’s new modular architecture will give assembly lines much-needed flexibility, this week also had him announcing Toyota won’t dawdle anymore on getting product into consumer hands.

“I think we’re going to be quicker to market,” Lentz announced to the press at Toyota’s brand new $1 billion Texas headquarters on Thursday. “Before if you were part of the sales organization, you had your own legal team [and] HR team, so there was a lot of redundancy across the organization … we were able to streamline that and, with a lot of the headcount changes, we were able to hire more engineers to our operation in Ann Arbor, as we continue to develop vehicles here in North America, for North America.”   (Read More…)

By on July 6, 2017

2016 Toyota RAV4/RAV4 Hybrid - Image: Toyota

We’re beginning to pummel a dying horse here but, as you already know, the North American automotive market is shrinking right now. Toyota wants to mitigate this by funneling sales into rental fleets. While this tactic has become unpopular with automakers like General Motors, others have bolstered fleet sales to cope with the lackluster demand. Hyundai, for example, has relied heavily on rental companies to boost its total volume, but the move has placed dealerships and the corporate office at odds with each other.

Toyota’s U.S. deliveries fell 3.6 percent through June of this year, which is 1.5 percent ahead of the industry’s overall decline. The automaker wants to fill the gap by ramping up volume to rental companies before the end of 2017. Like Hyundai, Toyota’s best sellers are passenger cars — which have taken the brunt of consumer apathy of late — but knows it can still unload them on Enterprise, Avis, and Hertz.  (Read More…)

By on July 2, 2017

Toyota Camry Assembly Factory Georgetown

Toyota is claiming that its TNGA modular platform represents more than a sea change for the Camry. It points to an entirely new direction for the company as a whole, highlighting its commitment to American manufacturing and a future involving more exciting vehicles.

While the latter remains to be seen, the Toyota New Global Architecture has warped the company’s midsize sedan into something almost unrecognizable. With substantially “more-aggressive” styling, the Camry is also boasting efficiency and performance gains — thanks to the platform’s low center of gravity and increased rigidity. But Toyota doesn’t want to keep the technology limited to America’s best-selling sedan, the architecture and concept are set to be baked into future vehicles as well. Because what good is cost-saving modular platform if you are only use it on a single model?  (Read More…)

By on June 28, 2017

2018 Toyota Camry SE white - Image: ToyotaExcited at the prospect of an all-new midsize sedan despite a drastic decrease in demand for midsize sedans, Toyota is ramping up employment at the Camry’s assembly plant in Georgetown, Kentucky.

With 700 additional manufacturing workers helping to launch the 2018 Toyota Camry, employment at Toyota’s Kentucky facility grew to 8,000, more than at any point in the plant’s three-decade history.

Toyota also builds Avalons and Lexus ES350s in Georgetown. (The Venza, a former Georgetown wagon, is dead.) But it’s the Camry, especially this all-new 2018 Camry, that will bring glory to the Kentucky plant if glory can indeed be brought.

Jack Hollis, the Toyota division’s group vice president and general manager, strongly believes the Camry is the beginning of a pro-sedan wave in America. In an extended interview with Autoline, Hollis spoke highly of the 2018 Camry’s potential, and of the potential for the entire car sector once the Camry stimulates demand.

“I think you’re going to see the entire sedan market pick up,” Hollis told Autoline, before hedging only a bit. “We’ll see a year from now.” (Read More…)

By on June 28, 2017

1995 Ford Explorer Limited, Image: Ford

Back in late May of this year, I inquired which modern automaker was the most daring. While I posited it could be Nissan or Volvo, many of you replied it was actually Dodge, followed by Kia and Mazda.

This week, let’s turn back the clock a couple of decades and see if all our answers require a bit of reworking. We’re off to everyone’s favorite car decade, the 1990s. Which automaker was most daring in the era of the neon and teal fanny pack? I’ll give you two specific model examples, much like I did before.

(Read More…)

By on June 26, 2017

00-1978-toyota-dolphin-rv-in-colorado-wrecking-yard-photograph-by-murilee-martin
The third-generation Toyota Hilux pickup (called the “Toyota Truck” in the United States) was a legend of reliability and frugality well into our current century, and plenty of small motorhomes were built on its sturdy platform. You’ll still see them occasionally today, but the skin-crawling ickiness of tenth-owner RVs tends to mean the end comes quickly when they wear out. Here’s one that took nearly 40 years to reach that point, now residing in The Final Campground: a self-service wrecking yard near Denver. (Read More…)

By on June 23, 2017

2014 Toyota Tundra Exterior-016

Now that pickup trucks have graduated from the role of farm and construction site conveyance to family hauler, space and seating have become as important as bed length and payload capacity. Not surprisingly, regular cab pickups and even extended-cab models have become a scarce sight on local roads.

Ram, Toyota and General Motors have since turned their extended cab full-sizers into front-hinged, almost-crew-cab four-doors, leaving Ford and Nissan with the only clamshell layouts in the business. As for regular cabs, who even thinks of those? Not many. So few, in fact, that Toyota beancounters decided to drop the axe.

Yup, there’ll be no regular cab Tundra when the refreshed 2018 models arrive in late summer. Are you sad? (Read More…)

By on June 21, 2017

2018 Toyota Camry XLE Hybrid - Image: Toyota The 2018 Toyota Camry will be priced from $24,380, including delivery, when it goes on sale this summer — a $425 increase compared with the base 2017 Camry.

Riding on an evolution of the Prius and C-HR’s Toyota New Global Architecture, the 2018 Camry is an all-new design for the first time since the 2012 model year. Market positioning is key, even for a Camry that’s been America’s best-selling car for 15 consecutive years, as demand for midsize sedans is quickly falling and even Toyota is seeing greater interest in the RAV4 than the historically dominant Camry. With new competitors approaching from Honda and Nissan, Toyota isn’t fooling around with this hugely important launch.

All eighth-generation Camrys are equipped with an eight-speed automatic. There’s essentially no tangible weight increase. The Camry offers the most standard horsepower in the midsize segment, the optional 3.5-liter V6 now produces 301 horsepower, and all Camrys now include Toyota Safety Sense P with pedestrian detection, radar cruise control, lane departure alert with steering assist, and auto high beams.

Perhaps most notably, highway fuel economy jumps all the way to 41 miles per gallon; above 50 mpg for Camry Hybrids. (Read More…)

By on June 14, 2017

Toyota Camry NYIAS 2017, Image: Toyota

Despite being Japan’s biggest automaker, Toyota has lagged behind many of its rivals in terms of cutting-edge technology. Most major car manufacturers have already begun developing self-driving vehicles, with some going so far as to make strategic partnerships with companies specializing in the applicable technologies. By contrast, Toyota has a strong R&D program but never saw fit to pursue autonomous development or battery-electric vehicles quite so aggressively as General Motors or Renault-Nissan, for example.

Toyota President Akio Toyoda has now admitted that may have been a mistake. At the company’s annual shareholders meeting on Wednesday, he promised the automaker would become more committed to achieving technical developments. Toyoda didn’t bring forward a concrete strategy but conceded the spending of additional capital would likely play a role — and an alliance or two isn’t out of the question. (Read More…)

By on June 12, 2017

2018 Toyota Camry Canada reveal - Image: Toyota Canada

The all-new 2018 Toyota Camry’s new 2.5-liter four-cylinder base engine generates 203 horsepower in the entry-level model, 206 horsepower in the 2018 Camry XSE.

This means the eighth-generation Camry offers the most standard horsepower of any car in America’s midsize segment, at least for the time being.

We know not yet what the 2018 Honda Accord will bring. Honda released some engine details last Friday, including information that reveals the death of the Accord’s V6 and future reliance on the 1.5-liter turbo from the Civic and CR-V — as well as the 2.0-liter turbo from the Civic Type R. But we don’t know how much power Honda, notoriously not a participant in any horsepower war, will allow the Accord’s basic 1.5T to produce.

Meanwhile, the Camry’s upgrade engine continues to be a 3.5-liter V6, and Toyota’s gone and done the right thing with that powerplant, too. Moar powah. (Read More…)

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