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Diesel, Gas-Powered Models Dominate Green Car of the Year Finalists

Jurors focus on diesels, other high-mileage options.

by on Oct.17, 2013

Jurors picked two diesels, inclluding the new BMW 328d, the maker's first 4-cylinder "oil-burner" to reach U.S. showrooms.

Green cars are going mainstream.  American motorists no longer have to look for stone-pony-slow econoboxes or premium-priced specialty vehicles to drive something clean and fuel-efficient, and that has made for an interesting round of choices as the sponsors of the Green Car of the Year reveal their five finalists.

Significantly, while there’s been much media attention on electrification in recent years, the list includes only one battery-based model, the 2014 Honda Accord Hybrid, with not a single additional plug-in or pure battery-electric vehicle making the cut. By comparison, there are two new diesels and a pair of models using new technologies to boost the fuel efficiency of conventional gas vehicles.

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The finalists for the 2014 Green Car of the Year, in short, underscore the general perception within the industry itself that there is no single, silver bullet when it comes to reducing emissions and improving fuel economy.

“The diversity of this field of finalists illustrates not only that ‘green’ has gone mainstream, but also that there is no single approach to achieving ever higher levels of fuel efficiency and environmental performance,” says Ron Cogan, editor and publisher of Green Car Journal and, which sponsor the annual award.

The five finalists for 2014 include:

2014 Toyota Corolla Gets “Marginal” Rating in New IIHS Crash Test

Compact model barely passes offset test; does better in other tests.

by on Oct.04, 2013

The 2014 Toyota Corolla received a "marginal" rating on the IIHS frontal overlap crash test. The test is designed to simulate real-world conditions.

Toyota’s touted new Corolla model received a mere “Marginal” rating in a new crash test designed to reflect real-world conditions, though it fared better in other tests conducted by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety.

Toyota isn’t alone, however. A number of new models, including a half-dozen other small cars, have had problems passing the IIHS small overlap frontal crash test – which is expected to lead to significant vehicle design changes in the coming years.

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But the poor performance of the 2014 Toyota Corolla redesign could be a problem for the maker’s hopes of maintaining the compact sedan’s dominance in its increasingly competitive segment. (more…)

Democratizing Technology

Features once limited to luxury models increasingly commonplace in mainstream vehicles.

by on Sep.16, 2013

All 2014 Toyota Corolla models will offer energy-efficient LED headlamps, a first for the segment.

When the new 2014 Dodge Durango comes to market later this month, it will offer buyers an assortment of new safety features that include Adaptive Cruise Control, a system that quickly can bring the vehicle to a complete stop in heavy traffic, then start moving again when traffic clears.

The 2014 Chevrolet Impala has a similar system that can slam on the brakes in an emergency, helping avoid an accident the driver might not have time to react to.  Meanwhile, Toyota will make super-bright and energy-efficient LED headlamps standard on all versions of the all-new 2014 Corolla sedan.

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These and other features, such as the EyeSight system Subaru is rolling out across its model line-up, underscore a dramatic trend in the auto industry, what might best be called “the democratization of technology,” in the words of Ford Motor Co. Chief Operating Officer Mark Fields.


First Drive: 2014 Toyota Corolla

New sedan quietly delivers with more style and efficiency.

by on Aug.27, 2013

Toyota delivers an all-new and more exciting midsize option with the 2014 Corolla sedan.

By almost any measure, the Toyota Corolla is one of the most significant vehicles built over the past half century.  That’s certainly true if you’re going by sales, the compact sedan lagging only the bigger Toyota Camry on the passenger car charts.

That said, the outgoing Corolla has taken its share of criticism, even from within Toyota where senior officials have been promising to move away from the bland styling of the outgoing model.  They gave a hint of what they had in mind with the Furia Corolla concept unveiled at the Detroit Auto Show last winter. And while the production 2014 sedan has clearly been toned down, the new Corolla will likely disappoint few of its traditional fans.

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The only ones who might take pause are those few looking for something smaller. If anything, the 2014 Toyota Corolla has grown both longer and a bit wider than its immediate predecessor. The wheelbase has been extended by 3.5 inches – and the payoff is obvious for both those sitting up front and in back since most of those extra inches have been translated into interior space.


Toyota Weighs Option for Corolla Hatchback

Sees 5-door as appealing to Millennial males.

by on Aug.27, 2013

The 2014 Toyota Corolla makes its official debut. A hatchback version could be in the offing.

Toyota is contemplating the option of adding a five-door hatchback version of the all-new 2014 Toyota Corolla in an effort to attract more of the younger buyers the Japanese giant has been struggling to win over.

While the ideas has been discussed inside the company in some detail, senior Toyota executives in the United States and Japan have not yet signed off on the project, officials cautioned

“Nothing is envisioned,” at this point, said Shinici Yasui, the chief engineer responsible for the Corolla, the sedan version of which has gone through a complete redesign for the 2014 model-year.

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Nonetheless, Yasui indicated that Toyota was concerned about the opinions of younger buyers who have been showing a renewed interest in hatchbacks – a body style particularly popular in both Europe and Japan. And a few key models, such as the hot-selling Chevrolet Sonic and Spark, as well as the Ford Fiesta, have shown the potential for bringing three- and five-door body styles to the U.S.


Toyota Counts on New Corolla to Drive Sales

Maker expects styling to draw new young buyers to compact.

by on Aug.22, 2013

The new Toyota Corolla sheds the plain vanilla design of the past to draw young buyers who have no loyalty to the brand.

Toyota is counting on an all-new version of its compact Corolla to not only boost sales but also to give a lift to its reputation as it migrates from traditionally safe, if plain vanilla, designs, to more passionate styling.

That could prove critical as competitors such as Nissan, Hyundai and Ford begin to gain on Toyota in key segments with more stylish products. Company officials at the Japanese giant admit they needed a “radically different” approach in order to build traction with young buyers now entering the market who are less brand loyal than the Baby Boomers who have traditionally been Toyota’s foundation in the U.S. market.

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The launch of the 2014 Corolla is designed to lure those agnostic buyers to the brand. The new model will also help Corolla finish off a strong year with about 300,000, according to Jim Colon, Toyota Motor Sales vice president of marketing communications. (more…)

Toyota on the Defensive

Japanese giant faces tough challenges; bets on new, updated products.

by on Aug.01, 2013

The 2014 Toyota Tundra remake will be pulling a heavy load for the Japanese maker.

For a vehicle with a payload capacity of 2,000 pounds and the ability to tow a 10,000-pound trailer, the 2014 Toyota Tundra will be expected to do some heavy lifting — and not just on the jobsite.

It’s been an unusually tough year for Toyota, both here and abroad. While the maker recently revealed it had narrowly retained its global sales lead, the gap between the Japanese giant and arch-rival General Motors markedly narrowed and while GM gained 4% for the first six months of 2013, Toyota was down 1.2%.

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It hasn’t helped to be caught up in an ongoing political dispute between China and Japan that even saw rioters burn a Toyota dealership. But the maker has also had some unexpected setbacks in what has long been its most profitable market, the U.S., where two key lines: the midsize Camry and the Prius hybrid “family” suffered unanticipated sales declines.  Meanwhile, the outgoing Toyota Tundra pickup has failed to take advantage of the revival of the U.S. truck market, the fastest-growing segment in the industry this year.


First Look: All-New 2014 Toyota Corolla

Sedan gets bolder design, more room, better mileage.

by on Jun.07, 2013

An all-new 2014 Toyota Corolla makes its entrance during a flashy media event in LA.

With the help of spotlights and acrobats, an all-new version of the Toyota Corolla made its splashy entrance in an old aircraft hangar in Santa Monica, Calif. as hundreds of journalists and guests waited to see what the Japanese automaker might have in store for the perennially best-selling compact sedan.

Often faulted for its conservative styling and generally boring handling and performance, consumers in the U.S. and another 153 countries have nonetheless long embraced the Corolla – which has sold more than 40 million copies since it was first introduced in Japan in 1966. But with competition in the compact market rapidly heating up, Toyota has delivered what it bills as not just a more stylish sedan, but one with lots more room and a renewed focus on fuel economy.

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“We’ve listened to our customers,” said Toyota Division General Manager Bill Fay, who said the objective was to elevate the impact the new Corolla has on individual motorists. “It looks sportier and feels better.”


Toyota Not Waiting for LA to Reveal Corolla Replacement

All-new model likely to pick up cues from Furia Concept.

by on Apr.02, 2013

The Toyota Furia Concept unveiled in Detroit in January.

It may be one of the less popular models with automotive journalists, but the Toyota Corolla continues to ring up strong sales. That said, the Japanese maker also knows it can’t wait much longer to bring in a replacement for the aging compact model as competitors from Japan, Korea and the U.S. continue to chip away at Corolla’s once-solid grip on the segment.

The automaker gave a hint of what’s to come in January when it rolled out the Toyota Corolla Furia Concept, a sharp-edged show car that was intended to pick up on the Japanese giant’s increasing focus on “passionate” design. But for those who expected to see the production Corolla roll into the Jacob Javits convention center for the New York Auto Show, the production Corolla proved a no-show.

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At a separate industry conference in New York, Toyota Senior Vice President Bob Carter did confirm the new Corolla is on the way, however, confirming the unveiling will occur “somewhere in the U.S.,” while also hinting that the well-anticipated event will occur before the next big American auto show in Los Angeles in November.

A spokesman later explained that it is not always possible to time key product launches to meet the schedule of the auto show circuit. Toyota isn’t alone in that thinking. During his keynote speech at the New York International Auto Show last week, Ford’s global marketing czar Jim Farley noted the maker has recently skipped the auto show route with launches including the latest Explorer, which he called “a really big learning experience,” and something that it will repeat with some other models in the future.

In fact, a growing number of manufacturers are finding there are opportunities to create stand-alone events where they don’t have to compete for attention with other brands – as can occur at a show like New York, where two dozen models debuted, or Detroit, where the count is usually more than 50. Occasionally, makers will tap into smaller car shows that might otherwise make no news except on the local level, such as the one in Miami. Ford has turned to the annual Texas State Fair for some big truck announcements in the past.

So, where might the 2014 Toyota Corolla launch? Beyond making it clear a U.S. introduction is at hand, with Toyota almost certain to want it in place by early in the coming model-year, that’s the big question.

Or, at least, one of them. Another issue is just how much of the distinctive Toyota Corolla Furia Concept details will remain once the production car emerges. In years past, the Asian maker has had a tendency to sand off the sharp edges of its concepts and return to familiar vanilla styling. But CEO Akio Toyoda has promised to put more “passion” into Toyota products, the new Avalon sedan being perhaps the best example.

Going that route could be particularly important considering the emphasis competitors such as the Ford Focus and Hyundai Elantra have taken. And Toyota planners can’t have missed the drubbing Honda took with the launch of the Civic two years ago – the poorly received design forcing Honda to pull together an “emergency refresh” that just recently came to market.

Spanish for “fury,” the Furia show car was more angular than the current, rounded out Corolla, with distinctive design elements such as the honeycomb headlight assembly, carbon fiber trunk lid spoiler, pronounced fender flares and ultra-bright LED taillamps.

At 106.3 inches, it had a wheelbase nearly four inches longer than the outgoing Corolla, with the total length stretched about two inches, to 181.9 inches. It measured nearly two inches wider, at 71.0 inches, but was also lower, at 56.1 inches compared to the 2013 compact’s 57.7 inches.

Toyota will clearly have solid momentum when the replacement Corolla comes to market but the wave of new competitors will also take every shot they can at the next-generation offering. So, it’s no surprise the world’s best-selling automaker doesn’t want to wait to get its new model into the ring.