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Toyota Delivers Major Mid-Cycle Update for Camry

Japanese giant aims to keep its king-of-the-hill status.

by on Apr.16, 2014

Bill Fay is group vice president and general manager of the Toyota division at Toyota Motor Sales, U.S.A., Inc., introduced the new Toyota Camry at the New York International Auto Show today.

This story has been updated to include new information.

Few vehicles have consistently dominated the competition as the Toyota Camry has, so one might traditionally expect it to deliver only the most modest of mid-cycle updates. But the 2015 Camry “refresh” is anything if conservative. The Japanese giant has rolled out an unexpectedly significant update that seems bound and determined to help Camry maintain its position as America’s best-selling passenger car.

Until recently, that dominance would seem hard to question, but Camry has been facing threats from a variety of fronts, including the Ford Fusion, the Nissan Altima – which actually claimed brief sales leadership in January and February – and from the Hyundai Sonata which is undergoing a major redesign that’s also debuting at this year’s New York Auto Show.

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Toyota got a sign that the market was shifting when it launched the current version of the Camry in late 2011. It received an unexpectedly cold response from dealers who saw an early prototype barely 18 months before launch, a big chill severe enough to force the maker to rush through a number of exterior changes late in the game.

So, this time, the maker isn’t taking any chances, and claims to have “re-imagined nearly every exterior surface of the car,” to the point where the only carryover piece of sheet metal is the roof.

“This is the biggest segment in the industry and everybody is upping their game,” said Toyota division general manager Bill Fay, noting that almost 2,000 different parts have been changed for 2015.

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Ford, Toyota Continue Scrap over Small Car Sales

Japanese maker claims victory by just 906 Corollas.

by on Apr.15, 2014

Toyota is claiming the Corolla was the best-selling nameplate in the world in 2013.

The Battle of Worldwide Budget Sales continued today. Less than a week after Ford touted the Focus as the world’s best-selling nameplate, Toyota is saying not so fast.

The debate over the best-selling car in the world has gone back and for between Ford and Toyota for a few years now with Toyota claiming the Corolla has been the top dog. However, Ford has countered that Toyota pads its numbers with variants of the Corolla that really bear little resemblance to the maker’s entry-level model.

Playing it Safe!

However, this year may be different. (more…)

Toyota Recalling 6.4 Mil Vehicles Worldwide

Nearly 30 different models impacted by a variety of problems.

by on Apr.09, 2014

The Toyota Highlander is one of many vehicles covered by the Japanese maker's huge new recall.

In one of the largest announcements in several years of major safety-related news, Toyota Motor Co. is recalling nearly 6.4 million vehicles for a variety of problems worldwide.

Some of the vehicles are actually covered by more than one recall, and the announcement also impacts products sold by two other makers – Subaru and General Motors — that were produced by Toyota. Adding the Subaru Trezia and Pontiac Vibe to the list brings the total number of vehicles involved in the recall to 6.76 million worldwide.

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Toyota says it has no reports of crashes or injuries related to any of the recalls – though it did note two fires linked to one problem, a defective engine starter that can keep a motor running even if the motorist wants to shut the vehicle off.  That is not related to the defective engine switch problem that has led GM to recall more than 2.5 million vehicles since mid-February.

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Toyota Workers in Canada May Join Union

Vote to join Unifor could occur next week.

by on Apr.03, 2014

Unifor Pres. Jerry Dias is the union's new leader. The union is pushing to hold a vote allowing Toyota workers in Canadian plants to join Unifor.

Workers at Toyota plants in Ontario could vote next week on whether to join Unifor, the successor to the Canadian Auto Workers union, which now represents employees at Chrysler, General Motors and Ford plants across the Canadian province.

The upcoming vote follows several failed attempts by the CAW to organize workers at the Toyota and Honda plants in Ontario. Unifor, however, believes workers are more receptive to the union’s appeal because of several recent changes in the way Toyota operates the plants, including a switch to a 10-hour day.

Insight!

Workers are also concerned about Toyota’s growing use of contract and temporary employees, who have a separate compensation system, according to Unifor officials. (more…)

With Competitors Gaining Ground, Toyota Plans Major Camry Update

Maker promises more than the typical mid-cycle “refresh.”

by on Apr.03, 2014

The 2015 Toyota Camry update may borrow key design cues from the NS4 Plug-in Hybrid Concept.

It’s been a tough winter for Toyota, the maker’s traditionally best-selling Camry line unexpectedly losing some of its momentum in a hotly competitive midsize sedan market.

And that has the Japanese giant scrambling to hang onto the sales lead it has held in the U.S. market for the last dozen years. Toyota confirms it will unveil a new version of the Camry at the New York Auto Show later this month, and it promises that the 2015 update will be more than just the usual mid-cycle refresh.

Insight!

Just how far it will go without a complete redesign remains to be seen, but with the Nissan Altima actually having led the sales race during January and February, Toyota officials are rapidly buying into the philosophy set by CEO Akio Toyoda who is demanding more “passion” from its future products – or “waku-doki” in Japanese.

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Ram Outsells Silverado for 1st Time

Ford F-150 retains solid segment leadership.

by on Apr.02, 2014

The addition of the Ram 1500 Diesel has helped the truck gain new momentum in the market.

One month doesn’t a trend make.  And it’s too early to see whether General Motors’ worsening recall problems are having an impact – but for the first time ever, Fiat Chrysler’s Ram 1500 outsold rival GM’s Chevrolet Silverado 1500 last month  to become the U.S. market’s second-best-selling full-size pickup truck.

March also marked the first time since 1978 that Chevy’s big rig wasn’t in second place in the fast-reviving truck segment, behind only the long-dominant Ford F-150.

Keep on Truckin'!

The numbers were close, Ram delivering 42,532 pickups last month compared to the Silverado’s 42,247. And Chevy can take solace in the fact that it remains entrenched in second place for the year to date, holding a more than 10,000-unit lead over the Ram brand: 107,757 Silverado 1500s to 96,906 Ram 1500s.

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Toyota Recalling Avalons for Airbag Problems

Devices on 119,000 vehicles could inflate for no reason.

by on Mar.28, 2014

The 2003-2004 Toyota Avalons are being recalled due to an airbag issue.

For the second time in less than a week, a Japanese automaker is recalling vehicles due to an airbag issue; Toyota is recalling 119,000 2003-2004 Avalons.

The maker said the car’s airbags could inflate without warning or cause, frightening the driver and causing a loss of vehicle control resulting in a collision. Toyota said it is unaware of any accidents or injuries related to the problem.

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Toyota reports that certain circuits within the airbag control module may be susceptible to damage if they are exposed to other types electrical components. It’s that contact that could cause the front airbags and/or seat belt pre-tensioners could inadvertently deploy. (more…)

Justice Dept. Confirms Toyota Settlement – Maker Will Take $1.2 Bil Hit

“Car owners have a right to expect that their vehicle is safe.”

by on Mar.19, 2014

Motorists "have a right to expect their vehicle is safe," said Attorney General Holder, adding that Toyota intentionally misled the public.

Declaring that “car owners …have a right to expect that their vehicle is safe,” U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder today announced a settlement of a long-running investigation into Toyota’s handling of a series of problems linked to a number of deaths and injuries and the eventual recall of more than 10 million vehicles.

The maker has agreed to pay $1.2 billion to settle the criminal investigation and will follow up on a number of steps it has already taken to ensure that it no longer delays responding to possible safety problems. That includes setting up rapid-response teams to quickly investigate customer concerns.

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The settlement comes just as the Justice Department begins an investigation into General Motors’ handling of a recall involving defective ignition switches that have been linked to at least 12 deaths.

“When car owners get behind the wheel, they have a right to expect that their vehicle is safe,” said Holder, during a news conference in Washington, D.C. on Wednesday morning. “Toyota violated that basic compact.”

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Toyota Set to Pay $1 Bil to Settle With US Justice Dept.

Feds end one criminal probe as they launch another targeting GM.

by on Mar.19, 2014

Toyota recalled over 10 million vehicles due to potential unintended acceleration problems.

Toyota is expected to pay $1 billion to settle a criminal investigation launched by the U.S. Justice Department into how the maker handled recalls linked to its problems with unintended acceleration nearly five years ago.

Both the Justice Dept. and the FBI had been looking to see whether the Japanese giant had intentionally misled federal safety regulators after it began receiving complaints that some of its vehicles could surge out of control unexpectedly. The automaker eventually recalled more than 10 million vehicles in the U.S. and millions more worldwide. It has also spent billions more to settle various lawsuits and to repair those vehicles.

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The settlement comes just as the Justice Dept. ramps up a preliminary investigation into how General Motors has handled the recall of 1.6 million vehicles equipped with faulty ignition switches. That service action – now linked to at least 12 deaths – was announced just last month, but an internal GM timeline indicates the maker first saw indications of the problem as early as 2001.

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Despite Pressure from Public, Lawmakers, Are Unsafe Cars Still Sidestepping Recall Process?

GM ignition switch scandal could lead to crackdown.

by on Mar.17, 2014

A Jeep Grand Cherokee fire. The maker long fought a recall - but critics aren't happy with the final settlement.

Things were supposed to change a decade ago.  After an estimated 270 people were killed in rollover accidents involving Ford Explorer SUVs and Firestone tires, Congress passed the so-called TREAD Act.  Short for the Transportation Recall Enhancement, Accountability and Documentation Act, it was intended to create a new process by which manufacturers had to reveal known safety-related issues – while encouraging motorists to report their own complaints.

But while federal safety regulators and automotive industry officials alike insist the new process is working, there are plenty of skeptics – all the more in the wake of the recent revelations that General Motors may have known for more than a decade that many of its compact cars were equipped with faulty ignition switches that could inadvertently shut the vehicles off and disable their airbag systems – a problem that last month led to the recall of 1.6 million vehicles and which has been linked to at least 12 deaths.

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What some are dubbing “Switch-gate” has already spawned a series of investigations – including hearings on both sides of Capitol Hill, a preliminary Justice Dept. criminal probe, a query by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, and a new internal investigation at GM itself ordered by the maker’s new CEO Mary Barra.

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