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Toyota Recalling Another 1.5 Million Vehicles

Leaky brakes and faulty fuel pumps blamed.

by on Oct.21, 2010

About 740,000 vehicles sold in the U.S., including this 2006 Toyota Avalon, are included in the recall.

Problems with leaky brake lines and faulty fuel pumps have led Toyota Motor Co. to announce the recall of 1.53 million vehicles worldwide.

The latest safety problems come as a severe setback to a company where a senior U.S. official had, only a week before suggested that Toyota had finally put its problems “behind us,” and was working to rebuild its reputation for building high-quality, safe and reliable vehicles.

In all, the maker now has recalled more than 10 million vehicles worldwide, starting with an October 2010 callback – the first of two – to address a so-called “sudden acceleration” problem that could cause the maker’s vehicles to unexpectedly race out of control.

In all, about 740,000 vehicles will be recalled in the U.S., under the latest safety action, due to a leaky master brake cylinder.  As fluid slowly leaks out it can cause the brake warning light on the dashboard to illuminate, the company said.

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The latest recall involves a variety of models sold in the U.S., including: the 2005 and 2006 Avalon, 2004 through 2006 non-hybrid Highlander and Lexus RX330, and 2006 Lexus GS300, IS250, and IS350.

Customers will be notified in the coming weeks and asked to bring their vehicles back to Toyota or Lexus dealers for no-cost repairs.


Toyota To Reveal New Prius-Badged Hybrid At Detroit Auto Show

Maker plans an array of battery vehicles and even a hydrogen car – but still is betting big on hybrids.

by on Oct.14, 2010

The Prius FT-HC concept could soon morph into a production vehicle, Toyota planning to use the Prius badge on a "family" of hybrids.

Toyota will introduce an all-new hybrid-electric vehicle that will share the Prius badge with the maker’s existing 4-door hybrid, the first step in a strategy to turn the Prius name into a green-tinged brand-within-a-brand.

“It will be an all-new model,” said Don Esmond, the senior vice president of automotive operations for Toyota Motor Sales USA, during an appearance before the Automotive Press Association.  And it will make its first appearance at the Detroit Auto Show, in January 2011.

While he hinted it will be “more stylish” and “more versatile,” Esmond shied away from offering any other hard details other than to say it will be part of a growing “family” that will share the Prius name with the original hybrid.  That Toyota model remains not only the most popular of Toyota’s gas-electric models but accounts for roughly half of all hybrids sold in the United States.

Esmond did suggest there are at least two key niches that Toyota would like to expand the new Prius family into.  The first would be a larger model, probably a crossover.  The other would be an even smaller and less expensive hybrid offering, which could mean something in the $15,000 range.

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The timing of the concept reveal would suggest the new Prius-badged hybrid could make it to market as early as the 2012 model-year.

Expanding the use of the Prius badge is potentially risky, especially if a new model falls short of expectations, but because it has an extremely high consumer awareness factor the approach also offers a potential kick-start for any new model.


Q&A: Toyota’s Don Esmond

"We stumbled," admits vet, but incentives are helping sales.

by on Mar.11, 2010

"Our owners deserve an answer," says Toyota's Senior Vice President Don Esmond.

“Sometimes I feel like it’s back in 1969 and I’m flying medevacs, taking fire and occasionally getting hit,” says Don Esmond, a slight grimace showing through his smile.

A decorated helicopter pilot during the Vietnam War, Toyota’s senior vice president of automotive operations is once again maneuvering through a battleground, but this time it’s the company taking flak for an ongoing series of safety issues that have led to the recall of more than 8 million vehicles – and which have been tentatively linked to a rising number of accidents, injuries and fatalities.

In typical fashion, Esmond has been focused on his mission, or more precisely, missions.  The first challege, he says, is to make sure Toyota’s products are safe, even if that meant briefly shutting down five U.S. assembly lines.  With the plants going, the next step is getting all products involved in the recalls repaired.

But longer-term, Toyota has to rebuild a seriously tarnished image and regain its once daunting momentum – something Esmond admits will be “a little more difficult under the circumstances.”  But a new incentive campaign, putting as much as $3,000 on the hood of some Toyota models may be doing its job, early sale numbers suggest.

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To get a better sense of what’s happening and what’s ahead for Toyota, caught up with the veteran Esmond in the midst of a series of “fireside chats” with the company’s dealers.


Toyota’s Esmond: “Consumer Confidence is Shot”

Could pent-up demand kickstart auto industry?

by on Feb.11, 2009

Even the high-mileage Prius can't gain traction in the market

Even the high-mileage Prius can't gain traction in the market

“Consumer confidence is shot,” laments Don Esmond, second-in-command at Toyota Motors Sales, USA.

Esmond is one of a number of senior executives on hand for the 2009 Chicago Auto Show, the nation’s largest in terms of consumer turnout. The question is whether potential buyers will show up – and even if they do, whether they’ll be willing to take the plunge and buy a new vehicle.

According to Esmond, Toyota now estimates that 1 million Americans, with the means to purchase a new vehicle, have postponed actually buying a new car, truck or crossover for anywhere from six to twelve months, because of the uncertain economy.