By on March 15, 2016

2016 Toyota Prius

Toyota is hoping to break the internet with an alluring butt shot of an upcoming Prius variant.

That, a new guy will turn around Lada (again), Buick says you’ll never drive an Avista, the second GM ignition trial begins, and Google’s got its eye out for buses … after the break!

Prius teaser

Hey, my eyes are up here

A shapely taillight assembly and not much else is all that can be seen in an image teased by Toyota in the run-up to the New York International Auto Show.

The automaker was brief in its explanation of the image:

Toyota is rolling out the next mechanical marvel in the Prius lineup at 9:10 a.m. EDT, Wednesday, March 23.

The taillights in the photo have no resemblance to the current Prius, thought the proportions of the vehicle are still sedan-like, meaning it isn’t a new body style being added to the lineup.

The wording of Toyota’s subsequent message — “Put limits in the rear-view” — and the fact that the Prius plug-in model ceased production last year all point to a new, longer-range plug-in offering.


New handler arrives to tame the Lada bear

Russia’s largest automaker has a new CEO with a tough job ahead of him.

After losing lots of money last year and its former CEO last week, AvtoVAZ, maker of the Lada brand and other vehicle lines, has announced the hiring of former Dacia CEO Nicolas Maure, the Associated Press reports:

Maure replaces Bo Andersson, whose departure from AvtoVAZ was announced last week after the company lost around $1 billion in 2015 as the Russian car market contracted sharply.

Maure will continue a modernization program begun by Andersson “despite the short-term challenges” when he takes over April 4, Renault-Nissan alliance CEO Carlos Ghosn said, adding that the alliance remains “bullish about the long-term future of the Russian market and AvtoVAZ.”
If you’re looking to turn around Lada, hiring the head of a low-cost automaker from a former Eastern Bloc country might not be a bad place to start.
Buick Avista NAIAS

Oh, guess what? No Avista for you!

In a move that should surprise no one, Buick has announced that the sleek Avista concept revealed in Detroit in January will not be seeing the light of day as a production model, Wards Auto reports:

“The energy around that car and the interest in it at the shows was amazing,” DiSalle, vice president-sales and marketing for Buick, enthuses during a ride-and-drive session for Midwest Automotive Media Assn. members using another vehicle at both shows, the Buick Cascada convertible.

But public reception to the Avista wasn’t enthusiastic enough to prompt Buick brass to give it a production thumbs-up. “It was purely a concept and meant to generate some buzz,” DiSalle says. “No other plans for now.”

Not only does this dampen the hopes of GM enthusiasts who have longed to get their hands on a sexy Buick coupe, it reinforces a strong sentiment expressed by The Truth About Cars about GM’s concept cars.


And, with a soundbite, they’re off!

The second General Motors ignition switch trial has gotten off to a eventful start, with GM’s lawyer claiming two plaintiffs’ minor accident was caused by an ice storm-related pile-up, not their car.

In a bellwether trial that will test the waters for many looking to lock horns with GM over their faulty, accident-linked ignitions, GM lawyer Mike Brock claimed, “Sometimes, accidents just happen,” according to Bloomberg:

The accident was one of dozens that occurred on a New Orleans bridge during a January 2014 ice storm, GM attorney Mike Brock said at the start of a trial that may affect the outcome of hundreds of other cases. Even the police cruiser that responded to the crashes was rear-ended by an ambulance near the site of the pileup, he said.

Plaintiffs Dionne Spain and Lawrence Barthelemy suffered minor injuries and didn’t report additional problems until weeks later, Brock said. The vehicle, Spain’s 2007 Saturn Sky, also had only minor scratches and wasn’t even moving fast enough to trigger the airbag, according to the attorney.

Six bellwether cases are set to go to trial, with the results determining how both sides in a multitude of other cases move forward.


Google wants you to miss the bus

If you’re really keen on creating a self-driving car, it’s probably best to keep a wide berth when it comes to school buses.

In order to keep the kiddies safe in our self-driving future, Google has filed a school bus detection patent, reports Fortune:

The patent, first noted in the Future of Transportation newsletter by Reilly Brennan, director of the Revs Automotive Program at Stanford University, describes a multi-layer system that looks at size, color, signage, and how it compares to other vehicles in order to recognize a school bus. The school bus detection patent was filed March 8, about three weeks after a Google self-driving car hit a city bus at in a low-speed incident.

While the bus collision incident caused some embarrassment for Google, this patent apparently doesn’t stem from that. The company has made child safety a key focus in the development of their autonomous driving technology.

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23 Comments on “TTAC News Round-up: Toyota’s a Big Tease, New Lada Savior, and Buick Puts the Avista Away Forever...”

  • avatar

    God damnit, Buick. God damnit!

  • avatar
    Kyree S. Williams

    I really don’t understand why automakers (GM is probably the *most* guilty of it) make these concepts that don’t have a chance in hell of actually going to production. Buick has done I don’t know how many Riviera design studies (which aren’t even RWD) and those didn’t make production, either.

    I mean, I guess you could say the Avista exhibits Buick’s upcoming design language—although I feel like Buick already did that with the four-door-coupe Avenir concept, which also isn’t likely to make production. But the days when you could impress and excite Buick customers with a tasteful concept car are long gone. They aren’t paying close enough attention to the auto industry to notice. In general, everyday people don’t ooh and aah over concept cars like they used to. It’s just enthusiasts and industry people, who aren’t fooled. And unless it’s a real enthusiast brand, like Porsche, there’s no point in trying to drum up consumer interest with these vehicles.

    • 0 avatar

      I hate it. GM has been a huge offender lately. They’ve had, what, five or six RWD concept cars in the last few years, that they had zero interest in actually making. At least Ford doesn’t even try to get my hopes up anymore. The last RWD concept CARS were the MKR and Interceptor. At least both of those were supposed to be produced.

    • 0 avatar

      Actually, I see a lot of design elements from GM concepts ending up in production cars…but, no, they don’t tend to produce the cars themselves. I think they want to see how these elements play with the public. Take a look at the Elmiraj…remind you of a certain Cadillac coupe introduced lately? The general shape and detailing are very similar (though the Elmiraj carries the design off better because it’s longer).

      The Sixteen’s front treatment ended up almost verbatim on the 2008 CTS.

      And speaking of a certain Cadillac coupe…given that it doesn’t sell, and no coupes sell anymore, it was hard to get too excited about the Avenir.

      But I’d say Chrysler was WAY worse than GM in its heyday…what, like the Firepower or the ME412 were ever going to see production?

  • avatar

    Why does GM even bother with these time and money wasting exercises? To remind people they aren’t capable or willing to build a Buick people actually want? Does anyone really walk into their local Buick dealer thinking “damn that Avista was fine” and walk out with a cheapascrap made in China Envision?

    • 0 avatar

      Is it clear that anybody *would* want this Buick? Coupes are a dying breed.

      On the other hand, GM does do some strange things; I didn’t expect the Cadillac version of the Volt to be a coupe. And they got low sales in spite of fire-sale prices.

  • avatar

    I’d be surprised if Lada ever manages to get out of their rut. Building low-quality cars for the past 45 years or so is a legacy hard to shake off, and even the Chinese seem to overtake Lada in terms of build quality.

    I doubt Putin will allow the company to fail, he’ll put in some protectionist market measures to force the people to buy Ladas.

    • 0 avatar

      The Lada brand is now largely made up of revised and rebadged entry-level Renault (branded Dacia in Europe) models. While they’re not heavy with kit, they’re far better than the wholly Russian models they replaced – and considerably better than China-developed equivalents.

  • avatar

    Toyota is putting a Tesla light on the back of the Prius. Now that’s original!
    Lada is making a 1989 4-door sedan. Ahh, nyet. This is the Russian version of the Hindustan Ambassador – outdated, substandard quality, and sold way, way beyond when it should be.
    Buick decides not to make a Mustang. Maybe they could just rebadge leftover Camaros instead? It appears that they have no idea what to do with a desirable car, since they haven’t had one is a very, very long time.

  • avatar

    We need a continued endless supply of Ladas to allow for a continued endless supply of Russian car crash videos, which never cease to be hilarious even though 95% of the accidents are caused by the same five mistakes: 1) blowing through red lights; 2) driving too fast in the snow or ice; 3) insane passes on rural roads; 4) passing vehicles that are already signaling for a left turn; and 5) pulling away from a stop sign without looking properly.

  • avatar

    The short-term challenges at Lada include lack of cheap credits, lack of domestic parts (see lack of cheap credits for buying foreign parts), corruption and theft, the French designs not doing really well in cold climates, the Ford designs built locally and doing well in cold climates, and Russians despising Lada as a brand.

    • 0 avatar

      Russian’s seem to be hit or miss with Lada. You head out to the more rural areas and they still seem to have a good hold. The things after all are still dirt cheap. Dealer network is many times better than foreign brands. Cars with the native platforms like the Granta, and Kalina still look stupidly easy to repair.

      Interesting about ford, since bringing their engine plant online they seem to have been able to drop prices quite significantly. They are really playing the long game. They probably could use some extra market share.

      The economy seems to have settled this year and won’t continue to free fall. Should help most automakers.

      The Vesta needs to be cheaper. 500,000 rub is too much. A fiesta is cheaper.

      GM was till stupid to leave Russia. They are going to regret it eventually. Unfortunately, their localization plan was only half baked and it killed them.

  • avatar

    If Buick isn’t going to build it, perhaps Audi could, as a new A5. This is the first design I’ve seen that tops the existing A5. Mine’s 8 years old; I’m going to need a new car sooner or later.

  • avatar

    That Buick looks like what I had imagined the Lincoln version of the Mustang would look like.

    As for the Google car school bus recognition, it makes sense that autonomous cars will need that as a separate algorithm. School buses have a unique set of behaviors required when near them on the road.

  • avatar

    I liked the Avista and hoped it would go into production as the Buick flagship, but I should’ve known better as it doesn’t fit the new ‘global’ Buick. That’s the Buick that took over from Saturn in reworking and rebadging models produced in Europe. (Regal/Insignia, Encore/Mokka, Verano/Astra, Cascada and well, Cascada).

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