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Toyota, Nissan and Honda Team up to Create “Hydrogen Society”

Makers pool funds to set up hydrogen fueling stations.

by on Jul.01, 2015

One of the first Japanese hydrogen stations.

In an unusual move, Japan’s three largest automakers have agreed to work tougher to help create what they’re calling a “hydrogen society.”

Toyota Motor Corp. has just launched its new Mirai fuel-cell vehicle, with Honda Motor Co. and Nissan Motor Co. working up similar products. While proponents point out that these vehicles produce no harmful emissions, skeptics note that there are few places for potential buyers to fill their tanks with the lightweight fuel, so the three companies are promising to invest as much as 6 billion yen, or $50 million, to build and support a network of hydrogen filling stations in Japan.

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They have also been supporting plans to create a similar infrastructure in the United States where the only ready supply of hydrogen currently is located in Southern California.

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Toyota PR Chief Resigns Following Drug Arrest

Julie Hamp, Toyota’s top female exec, still in jail.

by on Jul.01, 2015

Julie Hamp was named head of global communications at Toyota in April.

Two weeks after being arrested for allegedly importing prescription drugs into Japan, Toyota Motor Co.’s global public relations director – and its top female executive – has resigned.

Julie Hamp remains in jail, according to reports from Japan where the law allows police to detain a suspect for up to 23 days without bringing charges.

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In a statement, the world’s largest automaker said that it has “accepted her resignation after considering the concerns and inconvenience that recent events have caused our stakeholders.”

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Mirai Sets Fuel Economy Benchmark of 67 eMPG

Toyota’s new fuel cell vehicle meets daily needs.

by on Jun.30, 2015

The 2016 Toyota Mirai will debut with plenty of incentives to buy one, including three years of free fuel and app to help find fueling stations.

Much of the hubbub surrounding fuel cell vehicles focuses on, well, the “fuel.” How will you get it and how far can you go with it? The Toyota Mirai answered both of those today.

The Japanese maker said today the new fuel cell vehicle will average 67 miles per equivalent gallon and 312 miles on a full tank. The Mirai is expected to go on sale this fall in California with additional markets added later.

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“Toyota realized in the early 90’s that electrification was key to the future of the automobile,” said Jim Lentz, Toyota North America CEO, in a statement. “Just as the Prius introduced hybrid-electric vehicles to millions of customers nearly twenty years ago, the Mirai is now poised to usher in a new era of efficient, hydrogen transportation.” (more…)

Police Raid Toyota Offices After Drug Arrest of PR Chief

by on Jun.23, 2015

Toyota Motor Co. PR chief Julie Hamp.

Japanese Police today raided several Toyota offices, including its headquarters, following the arrest of the automaker’s top global public relations executive for drug law violations.

The company declined to comment on the latest action by authorities in the wake of Julie Hamp’s arrest on June 18th. She is suspected of importing the narcotic pain killer oxycodone into Japan in a package Hamp reportedly mailed to herself from the United States.

After initially being hired to run PR in the U.S. in 2012, Hamp was appointed global communications director this past March, moving to Japan where she has been living in a Tokyo hotel for several months. She is not only the highest-ranking woman at Toyota but also one of the few to reach that level in all of Japan.

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Toyota CEO Publicly Apologizes for Hamp Arrest

Toyoda expresses faith in executive’s innocence.

by on Jun.19, 2015

Toyota's Akio Toyoda apologized during a press conference today for not providing arrested executive Julie Hamp with more help in her relocation to Japan.

If Toyota had done a better job in assisting its top communications executive with her relocation to Japan, she might have avoided arrest for violating the country’s laws on controlled substances, the maker’s CEO suggested today.

Julie Hamp, chief communications officer, was arrested after she attempted to mail herself 57 oxycodone pills. They were found by authorities in an envelope with other personal items, according to reports.

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During a press conference earlier today, Toyota President Akio Toyoda apologized for the incident and confirmed the company’s belief that Hamp had no intent of breaking the law. (more…)

Toyota’s Top Communications Exec Arrested

CCO Hamp accused of importing narcotics into Japan.

by on Jun.18, 2015

Julie Hamp, Toyota's top communications officer, was arrested in Tokyo on drug charges.

Tokyo police arrested Toyota’s top communications executive, Julie Hamp, accusing her of violating the country’s drug laws by having oxycodone mailed to her from the United States.

Hamp, who was appointed to the post in earlier this year, was accused of receiving several dozen oxycodone pills at the Narita Airport. Oxycodone is considered a controlled substance in Japan and can only be handled by certain parties.

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According to Reuters, Hamp told the police she didn’t know she was importing an illegal substance. Toyota is being publicly supportive of Hamp in a released statement. (more…)

Japanese Automakers Slide, Koreans Surge in New J.D. Power Initial Quality Study

Japanese brands, as a group, post worst performance in 29 years.

by on Jun.17, 2015

Hyundai has scored major gains in quality with products like the 2015 Tucson, according to Power.

This story contains updated information.

If the latest J.D. Power survey is any indication, you might need to re-think just about everything you thought you knew about automotive quality.

The latest Initial Quality Survey, or IQS, finds that Japanese automakers, on the whole, have suffered a significant slide in the quality charts, with only three brands in the Top 10 this year. But the real shocker might be the surge in Korean quality. Kia, a brand long known for cheap, mediocre products, was second, behind top-ranked Porsche, with Hyundai ranked fourth. Jaguar, also struggling to reverse a reputation for poor quality, was third.

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For the Korean brands, which are caught up in a ferocious battle for market, the survey results represent a measure of vindication.  “We are extremely proud of the results,” said Mike Ofiara, a spokesman for Kia, which finished second in the overall ranking. “We’ve come a very long way. It’s representative of a lot of hard work by a lot of people.”

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Toyota Teaming up With Ford on Smartphone AppLink Technology

Partners looking to develop open-source version of Ford AppLink.

by on Jun.03, 2015

Ford integrates AppLink into most new models, and an updated version will power Sync 3.

In another sign of the strange bedfellow relationships reshaping the auto industry, Toyota is teaming up with Ford to develop an open-source version of Ford’s AppLink connected-car infotainment system.

The concept, which will be central to the completely updated Sync 3 infotainment system Ford will launch over the summer, is similar to the Apple CarPlay and Android Auto systems many automakers are planning to adapt. Toyota would apparently use it to update or replace its own Entune infotainment technology.

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Where automakers long took price in doing their own R&D, they are increasingly turning either to outside suppliers or, in a growing number of instances, partnering with each other.

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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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