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Mazda or Scion or Fiat? Alliances Are Changing the Face of the Auto Industry

Automakers partner up to cut costs, expand product lines.

by on May.28, 2015

The new Mazda Miata was developed as part of a joint venture with Fiat.

When the new iA comes to Scion showrooms later this year, it will mark the first time Toyota’s youth-oriented brand has offered a sedan.

To bring it to market, Scion sought out some help, largely repurposing a 4-door model developed by smaller Japanese automaker Mazda. Toyota also will use the subcompact Mazda2 as the starting point for the next version of its small Yaris model – which will be assembled at a new Mazda plant in Mexico.

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Confused? You’re not alone.  It takes more than just a scorecard to keep up with the convoluted alliances in today’s increasingly competitive auto industry. Hoping to add more models to their line-ups while at the same time driving down costs, traditional competitors are finding advantages to working together.

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Toyota Reportedly Planning Radical, 3-Seat Sports Car

Concept said to be on tap for Tokyo Motor Show.

by on May.27, 2015

Toyota has been studying a number of extreme options, including the i-Road commuter car.

Ever since he came onboard as the top executive at a company long known for its sturdy and reliable – but plain vanilla – products, Akio Toyoda has been pressing his team to pump some “passion” into its line-up.

Toyota has offered some hints of what’s in store with concepts like the exotic FT-1, as well as more stylish production models such as the Lexus RC coupe. But now, it seems, the Japanese giant is ready to take things to the next level.

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A variety of sources have indicated that Toyota will roll out a new sports car concept at the Tokyo Motor Show next October. But this isn’t just a new version of the Lexus RC – or even a production version of the FT-1. The open-wheeler apparently will have room for three and use a high-performance hybrid drivetrain.

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GM Death Toll at 107 as Feds Find Criminal Wrongdoing

Hefty fines could follow

by on May.26, 2015

GM CEO Mary Barra testified before congressional subcommittees four times due to GM's recall of 2.6 million vehicles last year.

The official death toll from faulty General Motors ignition switches has jumped again, to 107. At the same time, federal prosecutors have reportedly decided there was criminal wrongdoing in the way the maker handled the defect, taking more than a decade to order a recall.

Whether any individual will be prosecuted for the flawed handling of the ignition switch problem is uncertain, but hefty fines appear likely to follow, with the New York Times reporting that the ongoing investigation could be wrapped up by summer.

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Those fines could run well in excess of the money GM already has laid out to settle claims filed with a victims’ compensation fund. Last year, GM set aside $400 million to cover potential claims. By the time of the filing deadline on January 31, administrator Kenneth Feinberg reported receiving 4,342 separate claims.

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Toyota Vows to Solve Takata Airbag Problem

Automaker says public doubt must be removed.

by on May.22, 2015

Toyota's Akio Toyoda said resolving the Takata airbag problem and keeping the public's trust is critical to the auto industry's long-term health.

At least one automaker is pledging to get to the bottom of the problem with Takata-produced airbags that has resulted in the largest-single product recall in U.S. history: Toyota.

Akio Toyoda, Toyota’s president, said resolving the problem with airbags is critical to maintaining the public’s trust and is an industry-wide concern. The airbags can explode sending shrapnel into the cabin of the vehicle.

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The result has been six deaths, more than 100 injuries and the recall of 33.8 million vehicles in the U.S. and nearly double that globally. While the problem initially showed up regions with high humidity, the problem isn’t limited to those areas and the root cause of the problem is still unknown, Toyoda said. It’s an assertion supported by Takata officials and others. (more…)

Lack of Fuel Limits Hyundai Hydrogen Car Sales

Sales could grow as refueling network expands across California.

by on May.20, 2015

The Hyundai fuel cell stack shown in front of the Tucson. The entire package fits under the hood where a gas engine would normally go.

A lack of a hydrogen fueling network is taking its toll on Hyundai’s fuel cell-powered Tucson model, according to the maker’s top U.S. executive.

That has forced the maker to turn away potential buyers who simply don’t live close enough to the handful of hydrogen pumps currently open to the public in Southern California. But Dave Zuchowski, CEO of Hyundai Motor America said the situation should improve over the next few years as a state-funded effort opens more hydrogen fueling stations.

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Hyundai has sold “under 100” of the Tucson FCV models since the fuel-cell vehicle was introduced last summer, said Zuchowski, during a chat with reporters following a drive of two of the maker’s other alternative-power vehicles, the Sonata Hybrid and Plug-in Hybrid models.

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Toyota, Mazda Announce “Engagement”

Japanese automakers expected to launch series of joint projects.

by on May.13, 2015

Toyota's Akio Toyoda, left, and Mazda's Masamichi Kogai are all smiles after the two companies agreed to partner up on powertrain development projects.

Japan’s largest automaker is teaming up with one of the country’s smaller manufacturers in a nascent alliance that underscores the increasingly competitive nature of the global auto industry.

Toyota Motor President Akio Toyoda suggested the new partnership with Mazda Motor Co. might be thought of as “more of an engagement” than a marriage, however, suggesting that, at least for now, a full merger is not in the cards. But industry analysts anticipate that the two makers could eventually work together on everything from platform to powertrain development, as well as joint production ventures.

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“I’m excited to think about what kind of chemical reaction will be concocted, what great products will be created, when our engineers work together,” Toyoda told reporters at a news conference in Tokyo. (more…)

Toyota, Nissan Recall Another 6.5 Mil Vehicles for Faulty Airbags

Total Takata recalls now approaching 30 mil worldwide.

by on May.13, 2015

A Takata airbag after a crash.

Toyota Motor Corp. and Nissan Motor Co., Japan’s two largest automakers, have announced another major recall to fix potentially faulty Takata airbags, a move affecting a total of 6.5 million vehicles, about 1 million of them sold in the U.S.

All told, nearly 30 million vehicles have been recalled as a result of the problem, which can cause airbags to inflate over-aggressively in a crash, sending shrapnel flying into the passenger compartment. The problem has so far been linked to a half-dozen deaths, most of them in the United States.

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The latest actions may not spell the end of the Takata problem, however, as some safety advocates are calling for the recall of as many as 30 million vehicles equipped with suspect Takata airbags in the U.S. alone. (more…)

Toyota Rounds Out Year with $19.8B in Net Income

Japanese maker takes global sales hit.

by on May.08, 2015

Toyota's Akio Toyoda said the company's strong profits were due to cost-cutting efforts and a weak yen.

Toyota’s full-year financial results are the very definition of getting more from less as the company’s net income rose nearly 20% while its vehicle sales dropped globally.

The company’s fiscal year ends March 31, and it reported net income of $19.8 billion – a 19.2% jump – on revenue of $248 billion, which is an increase of 6%. The company’s operating income was also up 20% to $25.1 billion.

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The maker finished its year with a flourish. Its fourth-quarter net income rose to $3.73 billion, from $2.48 billion from the year-ago period. Operating profit jumped 46% to $5.31 billion compared with $3.65 billion. Toyota’s revenue increased 8.4% to $59.52 billion in the period. (more…)

Toyota Dealers Can Take Mirai Orders Next Month

Hydrogen fuel-cell sedan selling in California to start.

by on May.06, 2015

Toyota dealers in California will begin taking orders for the hydrogen fuel cell-powered Mirai next month.

The era of the fuel cell vehicle in the United States will hit a growth spurt early next month in California when Toyota dealers begin taking orders for the maker’s hydrogen fuel cell-powered Mirai.

The $58,000 alternative fuel vehicle starts arriving in dealer showrooms this October, according to the Japanese automaker. It will only be sold in California, which is the only state with enough hydrogen-fueling infrastructure for the purchase to make sense.

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The California Energy Commission is investing $46.6 million to accelerate the development of hydrogen fueling stations. The cash infusion will add 28 new stations to the existing nine stations. There are another 17 sites in various stages of development, which would bring the total stations expected online in the next couple of years to 54. That commission’s goal is 100 stations. (more…)

Toyota Mirai Paces NASCAR Race

Alternative fuel pace cars making mark on track.

by on Apr.27, 2015

The Toyota Mirai hydrogen fuel cell vehicle is the first hydrogen-powered pace car in NASCAR history.

Part of the thrill of attending a NASCAR race is the roar of the cars as they pass by led by the pace car at the start of the race. However, the Toyota Owners 400 on Saturday night had a little different feel as the cars were led by Toyota’s Mirai hydrogen fuel cell pace car.

While it didn’t exactly sound like the car from the Jetsons as it cruised the through the banked oval turns in Richmond, Virginia, it was definitely a different sound. Despite the lack of thunder from the Mirai, the fuel-cell-powered EV did make some noise as the first car of its kind to pace a NASCAR race.

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“Having a hydrogen fuel cell vehicle pace the Toyota Owners 400 is an historic moment for both Toyota and NASCAR and we’re proud it’s the Toyota Mirai,” said Ed Laukes, vice president of marketing, performance and guest experience, Toyota Motor Sales, U.S.A. “Bringing the Mirai to Richmond to pace this important race is another way for Toyota to showcase our innovation and environmental leadership.” (more…)