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Toyota’s Lentz Maps out Company’s Future in U.S.

Japanese maker relying on technology, design to strengthen sales.

by on Oct.16, 2013

Toyota's Jim Lentz says Toyota's version of autonomous vehicles will improve driver's ability, not take over the entire process.

When the future finally gets here and we’re all driving, or riding in, autonomous cars, the Toyota badge may not be on the side of your ride, according to Jim Lentz, Toyota North America CEO.

The Japanese carmakers’ plans for autonomous vehicles fall more into the realm of helping drivers improve their skills rather than allowing drivers to sit back and read the paper while the vehicle does the work.

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“We view autonomous cars a little differently than some others. We really see it as a co-pilot type car, not as a self-driving car,” Lentz, the first American to head Toyota’s vast operations in the NAFTA region, told the Associated Press. “A car that can really enhance the reflexes and the ability of a driver to continue to drive. That’s why I’m excited about those cars. As we look at boomers and they start to retire, the ability to have cars that can enhance their capabilities, it’s going to allow them to drive much longer.” (more…)

Toyota Reports Big Profits

Weak yen, cost cutting and strong sales boost results.

by on May.08, 2013

Toyota CEO Akio Toyoda said the company still has work to do in spite of big profits last quarter.

The weakening of the Japanese yen gave Toyota’s quarterly profit a boost as it prepares for a new product offensive in key markets in China, Europe and North America.

Toyota profits more than doubled to 313.9 billion yen or $3.2 billion as cost cuts and better sales made an impact while the declining value of the yen gave fresh impetus to the company’s turnaround.

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“Toyota has recovered much of the market share lost due to the recalls and natural disaster,” said Alec Gutierrez, senior analyst at Kelley Blue Book.


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.

Toyota Resumes Hiring at Stalled Assembly Plant

New, non-union plant to build Corolla beginning in fall of 2011.

by on Aug.23, 2010

Toyota's tenth U.S. plant opens next fall.

Governor Haley Barbour of Mississippi and officials from Toyota Motor Manufacturing Mississippi, Inc. (TMMMS) announced today that the company is resuming hiring at its Blue Springs plant where the next generation Corolla compact car will be built.

Toyota is now finished with the construction of the plant that was put on hold in late in 2008 when the reckless practices of Wall Street caused the collapse of the global economy.

Instead of building Prius hybrid models as previously announced, the $1.3 billion facility will make Corolla models instead, starting late next year. Initially the plant was going to produce Toyota Highlander sport utility vehicles when the project got underway in 2007. The collapse of the truck market and failure of the Tundra full-size pickup truck have forced the Japanese maker to rebalance its production in the U.S. while protecting Japanese jobs in Japan.


The decision to hire as many as 2,000 workers in anti-union Mississippi is the latest setback for the beleaguered United Auto Workers union since Corollas were previously built in a unionized plant – NUMMI – in Fremont, California that Toyota shut in March. Corollas for North America have been built in Japan since April.


Toyota to Build New Brazilian Plant

A sign that things are improving at the beleaguered automaker?

by on Jul.16, 2010

An inexpensive Corolla for emerging markets emerges in Brazil.

Toyota Motor Corporation (TMC) said today it will build a new plant – its third – in Sorocaba, São Paulo, Brazil for Toyota do Brasil Ltda. (TDB), its Brazilian sales and manufacturing company.

TMC purchased land for the plant about 90 km west of the city of  São Paulo in July 2008, just before the reckless practices of Wall Street caused the ongoing global Great Recession, and the wreck of the auto business.

TMC has now decided to start construction in September 2010, with production of a newly developed Corolla-class compact car to begin in the second-half of 2012. It will be based on the Etios, which goes into production in India late this year.

Initially, approximately 70,000 vehicles will be produced annually at the plant, constructed at a cost of $600 million and employing  approximately 1,500 people. Plans include production for export to unspecified emerging markets.

TDB was established in 1958 as TMC’s first overseas production base. Currently, the company produces parts at its São Bernardo Plant and the Corolla at its Indaiatuba Plant. However, Toyota, in spite of its pioneering efforts, remains a tiny player in the region with just a 3% share in the booming Brazilian market, where Fiat is first with a 20% share and fighting off  a resurging General Motors.


Toyota Begins Auris Hybrid Production in UK

Sales of 30,000 annually for first full hybrid made in Europe?

by on Jun.28, 2010

Auris HSD (Hybrid Synergy Drive) will be sold, eventually, in 32 countries.

The Toyota Plant in Burnaston, Derbyshire, is now making the new Auris hybrid, the first full-hybrid vehicle to be built in Europe, although some citizens of the UK might reject the “European” characterization.

Sales of 30,000 are targeted for the first year, with customer deliveries starting this July. Eventually, Auris HSD (Hybrid Synergy Drive) will be sold in 32 countries.

The Auris, not on sale in North America, comes in 3- and 5-door hatchback models derived from the Corolla platform. The hybrid will start it sales life as a 5-door hatch. (See Toyota Auris HSD Concept Appears at Frankfurt)

The design of Auris HSD has evolved from the Prius, the world’s first mass-produced hybrid vehicle. Prius  was launched in Japan in 1997 and in Europe and North America in 2000. Prius is now in its third generation. Auris is very close in size and performance to the Prius, creating a potential marketing problem. I assume Toyota will offer the Auris for fewer Euros, and keep the Prius the premium nameplate.

Auris is similar in size and performance to the Prius, creating a potential marketing problem.

Prius, of course, much to the astonishment of the European and American automotive establishments was a major technological breakthrough  – providing huge fuel economy benefits, as well as a “Green” marketing triumph for Toyota.

Toyota plans to introduce full hybrid drive technology across the company’s entire model range by the early 2020s.

“It is a proud day for Toyota Motor Manufacturing UK as we celebrate the official start of production of the Auris with Hybrid Synergy Drive, yet another premium quality model to be Built in Britain,” said Katsunori Kojima, Managing Director of TMUK.


Toyota Restarts Work on Mississippi Plant

New, non-union plant to build Corolla beginning in fall of 2011.

by on Jun.17, 2010

Mississippi taxpayers provided almost $300 million in incentives to the Japanese company.

Toyota is resuming construction of its Blue Springs, Mississippi plant that was put on hold in late in 2008 as the reckless practices of Wall Street caused the collapse of the global economy.

Instead of building Prius hybrid models as previously announced, though, the $1.3 billion facility will make Corolla compact models instead. Initially the plant was going to produce the Toyota Highlander sport utility vehicle when the project got underway in 2007.

The decision is the latest setback for the beleaguered United Auto Workers union since Corollas were previously built in a unionized plant – NUMMI – in Fremont, California that Toyota shut in March. Corollas for North America have been built in Japan since April.

The decision to close NUMMI was controversial, to put it mildly,  since California is Toyota’s largest market by far, and the home of Toyota’s U.S. headquarters.


Toyota said in a statement that it would hire 2,000 “team members” and build the Corolla sedan beginning in the fall of 2011. Through May of this year, Toyota has sold more than 118,000 Corollas in the U.S.   (more…)

Toyota Throws Record Incentives at U.S. Market

After a 9% sales slump, Toyota goes on marketing offensive.

by on Mar.02, 2010

Under pressure to turn around a share and sales slump, Toyota is spending big.

Toyota Motor Sales, U.S.A. today announced plans to launch what it called its “most far-reaching sales program in its history.”

This latest development followed the  announcement that Toyota sales had declined 9% in February, moving far behind number two General Motors in the U.S. market.

Particularly worrisome was a drop in “first time buyers” during the month.

A “stop sale” of its most popular models  because of safety recalls at the beginning of the month cost Toyota an estimated 18,000 vehicle sales, according to Bob Carter, group vice president and general manager of Toyota Division for Toyota Motor Sales.

Starting today, through April 5, 2010, the national marketing program includes financing, leasing and customer loyalty offers. Highlights of the program include:

  • 0% APR financing for up to 60 months on 2010 Avalon, Camry, Corolla, Highlander, Matrix, RAV4, Tundra and Yaris, for qualifying buyers.
  • Low lease rates on 2010 Avalon, Camry, Corolla, Highlander, Matrix, Prius, RAV4, Tundra and Venza, for qualifying buyers. Examples include a Corolla lease for $179 a month and a Camry lease for $199 a month, although offers may vary regionally.
  • Complimentary two-year premium maintenance program for customers who purchase or lease a new vehicle and provide proof of a Toyota, Lexus or Scion vehicle already registered in household, with applicable conditions.


Toyota European Pedal Fixes Start Next Week

Owners of the 1.8 million Toyota vehicles potentially affected by bad pedals have not been notified, though, as sales continue.

by on Feb.01, 2010

Issue is if "Aygo" when you want me to stop?

Toyota Motor Europe confirmed this afternoon that it would fix accelerator pedals on as many as 1.8 million vehicles in Europe.

The announcement, oddly out of sync given earlier European time zones, follows the confirmation this morning that Toyota Motor Sales in North America will add a shim to millions of vehicles that, allegedly, stops the accelerator pedal sticking problem, which covers eight of its most popular model lines.

The first shipments of parts required for the latest fix covering the ongoing, and what critics maintain is a multifaceted problem, will begin arriving in Europe next week.

The beleaguered Japanese company offered no explanation whatsoever for what the difference in parts is among its various regional suppliers and why only one is being singled out, with an attitude that increasing number of critics say  results from out-sized reputation for quality, which recently has been likened to  a fable called the “emperor has no clothes,”

Executives in the U.S. insisted that only one, company, CTS, made the defective pedals. executives in Europe and Asia have not participated in press conferences.

There are, however, growing reports that the  accelerator striking and unintended acceleration  problems also exists among Denso supplied pedal assemblies, an assertion that thus far has gone without acknowledgment or any comment in spite of’s repeated requests for clarification at the affected companies and in their affected regions.

In Europe, Toyota says it – eventually — plans to contact the affected customers, without supplying any details as to how the recall will be conducted, suggesting that the company is still not on top of the rapidly unfolding controversy.   (more…)

Toyota Pedal Repair: Frequently Asked Questions

Here is the latest from Toyota Motor Sales on how to get your sticking Toyota accelerator pedal, eventually, fixed.

by on Feb.01, 2010

How long it will take to shim the pedal in millions of vehicles is an unanswered question.

Inquiries continue to increase about the controversial Toyota sticking accelerator pedal recall.

Toyota announced a fix in the early hours of this morning. These are the latest statements from Toyota about what it will do to solve the problem in North America.

When is an entirely different matter? There are millions of affected vehicles, and it is not clear how the limited number of dealers can service them in a timely manner, even if it is a 30-minute fix that just shims the pedal. The views expressed are those of Toyota and not necessarily those of the – Ken Zino, editor-in-chief.

1. What is the solution Toyota announced to fix sticking accelerator pedals?

Limiting pedal travel solves the problem?

Toyota’s engineers have developed and rigorously tested a solution that is both effective and simple. A precision-cut steel reinforcement bar will be installed into the accelerator pedal assembly, thereby eliminating the excess friction that has caused pedals to stick in rare instances.

2. What is the problem that could cause accelerators to stick and led to the recall?

The issue involves a friction device in the pedal designed to provide the proper “feel” by adding resistance and making the pedal steady and stable.

This friction device includes a “shoe” that rubs against an adjoining surface during normal pedal operation. Due to the materials used, wear and environmental conditions, these surfaces may, over time, begin to stick and release instead of operating smoothly. In some cases, friction could increase to a point that the pedal is slow to return to the idle position or, in rare cases, the pedal sticks, leaving the throttle partially open.

3. How does a steel reinforcement bar solve this problem?

The steel reinforcement bar will reduce the surface tension between the friction shoe and the adjoining surface. With this reinforcement in place, the excess friction that can cause the pedal to stick is eliminated.

4. How does Toyota know that this solution will be effective?

We have confirmed the effectiveness of the newly reinforced pedals through rigorous testing on pedal assemblies that had previously shown a tendency to stick.  Nothing is more important to Toyota than the safety and satisfaction of our customers, and we have high confidence in our solution for fixing our customers’ vehicles.

5. When can I get my vehicle fixed?


We will begin contacting customers to let them know when to bring in their vehicles for the fix, and some of them will be notified as early as this week.   (more…)