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Another Toyota Hybrid Due at NAIAS

Expanding the lineup with a post Prius offering?

by on Dec.15, 2009

No details, just a teaser shot of another dedicated hybrid?

No details yet, just a teaser shot of another dedicated hybrid?

Toyota Motor Sales, USA will stage the world debut of a new “dedicated” hybrid concept vehicle during the 2010 North American International Auto Show in Detroit.

The vehicle will be revealed during a news conference held on Monday, January 11.

No other details were released, leading to speculation that Toyota’s phenomenal success with hybrids in general and with the third generation Prius makes room for a second freestanding hybrid, one not built off an existing platform and model series.


GM Jettisons Another Japanese Partner

First, Toyota and NUMMI. Now, Suzuki and CAMI.

by on Dec.04, 2009

The first 2005 Chevy Equinox rolls off the line at the CAMI Assembly Plant in Ingersoll, Ontario on February 20, 2004.

First Chevy Equinox off the line at the CAMI plant in Ingersoll, Ontario, February 2004.

General Motors of Canada today announced that it would acquire 100% ownership of CAMI Automotive Incorporated through a transaction to buy shares currently owned by long-time 50% partner Suzuki Motor Corporation.

GM previously ended a link with Suzuki in Asia during November 2008.

No financial details of the latest transaction were released, and it should have no effect on potential customers.

Last June, GM abandoned its pioneering joint venture, NUMMI, with Toyota Motor Corporation in Fremont, California. Toyota has since decided to close the plant located in its largest U.S. market.

GM’s latest move is in keeping with employment agreements with the federal and provincial Canadian governments that were part of the taxpayer financing agreements necessary to bring GM out of bankruptcy in July.


Toyota Output Drops 24% during first half of F.Y.

Good news, though, as overseas production increases slightly.

by on Oct.28, 2009

The Japanese automaking giant remains mired in the Great Recession.

The Japanese automaking giant remains mired in the Great Recession.

Toyota Motor Corporation (TMC) said in Tokyo this morning that its global production dropped more than 24% during the first half of its fiscal year, which ended in September 2009. Its export business from Japan is off 45%, which will put extreme pressure on financial results when they are announced next week.

Most analysts expect TMC to continue to report large losses for the near future.

However, sales for the Toyota brand in Japan during September increased for the second consecutive month. Sales of Lexus vehicles were 3,044 units, a 31.8% increase.

In Japan, Toyota now has a 44.4% share of market, excluding mini-vehicles, a 2.6% increase, and a record high for the month of September.



In a potential bright spot, TMC reported overseas production had its second consecutive month of increase, due to added production mainly in Asia and North America. Here, the strengthening Yen will cut into potential revenue from the increases, putting further pressure on profitability.


Toyota Brand Launches in Restricted South Korea

Monthly sales targets are a meager 500.

by on Oct.20, 2009

Toyota Motor Executive Vice President Funo Yukitoshi, left, and Toyota Korea President Taizo Chigira introducing the Camry to Korea.

Toyota Motor Executive Vice President Funo Yukitoshi, left, and Toyota Korea President Taizo Chigira introducing the Camry to Korea.

Toyota Motor Corporation announced that sales of Toyota-brand vehicles began today in South Korea at five new dealerships, including three in Seoul, established by TMC’s local distributor Toyota Motor Korea Co., Ltd. (TMKR).

Now available are the third-generation “Prius” gasoline-electric hybrid midsize vehicle, the “Camry” and “Camry Hybrid” mid-size sedans and the RAV4 crossover sport utility vehicle. TMC has set an initial combined monthly sales target of 500 vehicles and aims to increase that number to 700 vehicles beginning in 2010.


Toyota Motor to Rehire Some Workers in Japan

It's the first, small expansion of the workforce since 2008.

by on Sep.30, 2009


Rehired workers will make components for the third generation Prius hybrid.

Toyota Motor Corporation (TMC) announced in Tokyo this morning that the number of fixed-term employees it plans to hire starting in October would be approximately 1,600.

The largest Japanese automaker said the decision to increase the number of contract employees “reflects future production plans, against a backdrop of gradually recovering worldwide automobile sales encouraged by tax-incentive and subsidy programs implemented in various countries.”

Recruiting is to center on former TMC “fixed-term” employees, with those rehired expected to take up positions in various plants from the beginning of October through early November.

Hire Us!

Hire Us!

It is the first, small expansion of a contracted workforce since June of 2008. Since then the loss-making company has slashed its temporary workforce in Japan from 9,000 workers to 1,300, as it cut production after the collapse of Lehman Brothers a year ago sent the world’s markets into crisis. Similar cuts were made in other markets.


Toyota Develops Self Repairing Clear Coat

A highly scratch-resistant coating coming on new Lexus LS.

by on Sep.29, 2009


Self restoring paint is an auto fountain of youth?

Toyota Motor Corporation (TMC) announced today that it has developed a clear-coat paint with self-restoring qualities that it says is highly resistant to surface scratches usually caused by car wash brushes or fingernails. TMC plans to use the coat on the soon-to-be-upgraded Lexus LS model, it flagship luxury vehicle.

A similar coating is used on Infiniti vehicles. It was not immediately clear just how much of a breakthrough this is.

Unlike a conventional clear coat, TMC’s newly developed coating is not easily damaged and can even restore itself even if it is deformed, unless it is destroyed. Moreover, it requires no special maintenance, prevents luster degradation caused by surface scratches and helps to prolong new-car color and gloss.

The new coat features an ingredient that makes for closer molecular bonding, resulting in a denser structure than with conventional clear coatings. This gives the outer most paint coat flexibility and elasticity, making it less prone to damage and more resistant to light and acid. It also gives it the ability to self-restore after deformation.

TMC continues to address automotive paint related environmental issues through such steps as introducing water-based paints on all its vehicle-production lines.

Worldwide Sales of Toyota Hybrids Top 2 Million

What started in '97 as a niche is now a formidable business.

by on Sep.28, 2009


Next Prius is a plug-in hybrid design, although Toyota remains leery of lithium ion batteries.

Toyota Motor Corporation (TMC) has steadily expanded its line-up of hybrid-electric vehicles, or HEVs, since launching the first version in Japan, the “Coaster Hybrid EV,” during August of 1997. The Prius followed  that December in Japan, and sales of the mass-produced Prius models began in North America, Europe and elsewhere in 2000.

Executives at other Japanese companies, as well as U.S. and European automakers, scoffed at what was a technological triumph. Only Honda was seriously pursuing this emissions cutting and fuel economy-increasing technology during that period.

Today, virtually all other makers are scrambling to catch up with the innovation, while also trying to protect their investments in older technologies at a time when regulations are making it increasingly expensive, perhaps prohibitive to pursue both paths at once. Add in the ongoing negative  effects of the Global Great Recession, with its concomitant collapse of vehicle sales — especially in what were the most profitable big truck and SUV segments, and the collapse of the  luxury segments — and you have a potential radical recasting of the global automotive order.

I am reminded of the lead of Tale of Two Cities with fat kings and queens on long established thrones thinking things were pretty much settled forever. Some older automotive companies and their royalty are now in a similar position.

Worse, if you are a competitor, Toyota promises to eventually offer hybrid technology in virtually every product in its line-up. A clear challenge to the established monarchies. And this challenge doesn’t stop there. As first reported last month, senior American officials at Toyota have been seeking to broaden the use of the Prius name, essentially creating a hybrid-based brand-within-a-brand. It could therefore become the strongest  global name in automotive  history.

Yes, there are caveats here aplenty.

The first is Toyota’s own weakened financial position, which has and will slow down its expansion of hybrids. Iits operating income has drastically declined in all  sectors: Toyota Motor Corporation finished fiscal 2009 with a huge $7.7 billion loss during the fourth quarter of the traditional Japanese year, which ended March 31. The fourth quarter loss left the Japanese auto giant with a decidedly non-traditional full-year loss of $4.4 billion, the largest in the company’s 71-year history. Net revenues dropped 22%.  Toyota also released guidance that it expects another loss ¥550 billion or nearly $6 billion for the coming year. The company, used to never-ending expansion, is having extreme difficulties managing a forced contraction.

However, virtually all other automakers are having the similar problems. And they don’t have the experience in  hybrid technology, so catching up will be hard — and complicated by the  experience,  intellectual property rights and the patents Toyota holds. And here, Toyota’s record of hybrid design progression and sales expansion is formidable.

What happened after the  initial Prius revolution, that caught automotive royalty eating cake, is a tale of a changed world. Toyota’s  next big step was  the second-generation Prius in 2003 and the expanded use of its hybrid system to minivans, SUVs and rear-wheel-drive sedans. As a result on May 31, 2007, the global cumulative sales of TMC’s hybrid vehicles topped 1 million.

This year, TMC continued to expand its hybrid vehicle lineup, launching the Lexus  RX450h in April, the third-generation Prius in May and the Lexus HS250h—the first dedicated Lexus hybrid model—in July.

No Lithium!

No Lithium!

All three vehicles are well received, although the Great Recession has drastically decreased the planning volumes. Nonetheless, they are expected to contribute to the ongoing popularization of hybrid vehicles.


Toyota To Shift Production to Texas and Ontario

NUMMI is victim of the Great Recession and ongoing losses.

by on Aug.28, 2009

A flop at sales of  units a month.

A flop at sales of 6,000 units a month.

Toyota Motor Corporation plans to transfer some Tacoma compact pickup truck production from the New United Motor Manufacturing Inc. (NUMMI) plant in California to Texas in a bid to improve the productivity of its relatively new truck plant in San Antonio.

The Texas plant is widely considered a big money-loser because it was built to produce about 240,000 full-size pickup tucks per year, with expansion plans to double that, but will probably end up building about 70,000 trucks this year. Total Tundra sales through June of this year were 36,000 units.

However, given the modest volume involved — Tacoma in the first six months of this year sold 53,000 units — adding in the compact pickup truck to the model mix at San Antonio may not be enough to make the plant profitable.

Sales of Tundra full-size pickup have never approached Toyota’s ambitious targets; and the continuing strength of GM and Ford in the full size  truck market is making it very difficult for Toyota to gain market share.

TMC Executive Vice President Atsushi Niimi said that Toyota also will now expand production of the Corolla in Cambridge, Ontario to offset the loss of production at NUMMI, which had been the principal source of compact Corolla models for the North American market. Corolla production will now cease at NUMMI in March 2010, Nimmi said.

Niimi also said that Toyota will also have to increase imports of Corollas after NUMMI closes — so the company is protecting jobs in Japan where it has just closed an assembly line at one of its plants. In the medium to long-term, however, Toyota claims it would like to increase Corolla production in the U.S. Reading between the lines, however, Niimi’s remarks indicate that Toyota’s plans for further expansion in the U.S. have been shelved as it will to to save  Japanese jobs as it contracts to stop multi-billion dollar losses.  Niimi also implied that General Motors should get some of the blame for the closing of the Fremont plant.


Toyota Shifting from V8s to I4s in Alabama

Latest move to smaller engines comes as big trucks flop.

by on Aug.26, 2009

Well, betting billions on full size trucks has cost billions.

Betting billions on full-size trucks cost billions.

The big multi-billion dollar bet that Toyota made on full-size trucks in the U.S. market that resulted in big losses continues to unravel.

In the latest reversal, Toyota Motor Corporation (TMC)  is spending another $147 million to install four-cylinder engine tooling at its under used V8 engine plant in Huntsville, Alabama.

The sales failures of the super-sized Tundra pickup truck and the Sequoia sport utility vehicles have left the plant working at about half of its capacity.

The latest expense comes at a time when Toyota is considering sweeping production decreases of 10% or more at its global factories and cutting costs by $10 billion in the current fiscal year, which began on April 1. Even so, it is projecting a $6 billion loss.

To accomplish the cost savings Toyota is also doing what was, after decades of sustained growth, unthinkable – closing plants abroad and in its home Japanese market. It is expected that as part of its retrenchment it will abandon its only unionized plant in the U.S., New United Motors Manufacturing Inc. (NUMMI) in California, even though California is its largest market in U.S.

The world’s largest carmaker appears to have little choice. Toyota Motor Corporation lost more than $815 million in the first quarter of its fiscal year, as revenues declined 38% when compared with its first quarter of last year.

The swing into negative numbers was breathtaking. Net income decreased from ¥353.6 billion to a loss of ¥77.8 billion or $4.52 billion. Major factors for the decline included ¥650 billion due to the effects of declining sales volume and mix, and ¥140 billion due to the appreciation of the Japanese currency, mainly against the U.S. dollar and the Euro.

Critics have maintained for years that the Japanese government manipulates the value of the Yen to subsidize its export driven economy, but the global Great Recession has upset that equation and, apparently, the ability of the Japanese government to keep the yen undervalued.

This recent Yen revaluation is behind the latest change production changes. Toyota Motor Manufacturing, Alabama, Inc. (TMMAL) will build 2.5-liter and 2.7-liter inline, four-cylinder engines so Toyota doesn’t have to continue importing them from Japanese plants as it currently does. An estimated 216,000 units annually will be built for use in the mid-size Camry model produced at Subaru of Indiana Automotive, Inc. and in the RAV4 compact SUV produced at Toyota Motoring Manufacturing Canada, Inc.


A “Scion” Takes Over as Toyota Motor Corporation Faces Another Record Loss as Global Sales Plummet

"We are setting sail during a storm," said the new president, and founding family member, Akio Toyoda.

by on Jun.25, 2009


"We expect our losses to deepen this fiscal year," said Akio Toyoda, third from left.

Akio Toyoda officially debuted as president of Toyota Motor Corporation today and said the company faces “two more difficult years. Toyota is now facing a record loss off ¥550 billion ($5.7 billion) this fiscal year, according to Toyoda, a member of the company’s founding family, who took over as president two days ago.

The latest projected loss follows a record ¥437 billion loss in the previous fiscal year, which ended on March 31st. It was the first time a Toyoda has led the company in more than a decade, and Toyota’s widening losses, and plummeting share price prompted the change.

“We expect our losses to deepen this fiscal year, and so all of us in the new management team at Toyota feel like we are setting sail during a storm,” Toyoda said at his first press conference. He said he would do his best to stop the losses after this year.

“The way forward is clear,” according to Toyoda, who, at 53, is unusually young for a Japanese company president.

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“Yes, the going will still be tough for the next few years, but if all Toyota companies around the world come together and reaffirm Toyota’s mission, Toyota will bounce back. My immediate goal is to work from this low point in our business upward so we can return to profitability as soon as possible,” Toyoda said.

He outlined two areas where changes would be made — building better cars, and meeting the needs of regional markets.