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Auto Sales Slip a Bit, but Beat Expectations

Prices continue to push upwards.

by on Sep.01, 2015

Keep on trucking. Vehicles like the new Renegade helped Jeep score some of the industry's biggest gains in August.

Despite Wall Street’s shake-up, China’s sliding economy – and a fluke of the calendar – the U.S. auto industry did a bit better than anticipated in August, with far less of a downturn than some had predicted and a number of manufacturers managing to eke out strong gains.

While some brands, such as Toyota, saw sharp declines, others pushed into record sales numbers. And carnakers continued to see average transaction prices rise again last month, prices running at or near record levels for most of them, according to industry analysts.

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“In spite of a tough 2014 comparison and extreme stock market volatility, our dealer’s competitive spirit kicked in and propelled us to our 65th-consecutive month of year-over-year sales increases,” said Reid Bigland, Head of U.S. Sales. “Our Jeep brand turned in a double-digit increase while eight individual models, including four Jeep brand vehicles, set sales records.”


Toyota Restarts Chinese Plant After Fatal Blast

Explosion destroyed 1,000s of vehicles.

by on Sep.01, 2015

Thousands of burnt out vehicles sit charred after an explosion in the port city of Tianjin, China.

With global leadership in the auto industry hanging in the balance, Toyota is set to resume production at a big assembly complex in the Chinese port city of Tianjin, which was rocked earlier this month by a huge explosion that killed more than 140 and created a crisis for the government of the Republic of China even as it scrambles to contain the country’s mounting economic woes.

The slowdown in economic growth across China, highlighted by the plunge in Chinse stock indices, has cut into new car sales across the country. But major global carmakers, such as Toyota, Volkswagen and General Motors still count on the Chinese market for a significant portion of the worldwide sales.

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The unexpected shutdown came at a critical time for Toyota. The Japanese maker saw its global sales slip behind Volkswagen for the first half of 2015, and the loss of production in Tianjin could give its German rival a stronger run for leadership during the rest of the year.


Toyota Turns to Alternative Supplier for Takata Airbag Replacements

Move could reduce risk, ensure supply as demand surges for inflators.

by on Aug.21, 2015

Toyota has had more than 10 million vehicles impacted by the Takata recall so far.

With more than 33 million vehicles already subject to recall and mounting calls to recall millions more due to faulty Takata airbags, there is growing concern about getting replacements for defective airbag inflators.

That has prompted Toyota to turn to an alternative supplier for as many as 13 million of the explosive devices, according to a report by the Reuters news service which described it as “the most proactive yet” to ensure it can make necessary repairs.

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Takata airbag inflators have been linked to at least eight deaths and over 100 injuries in older vehicles produced by at least 11 manufacturers, including Toyota, Honda, General Motors and BMW. The explosive squibs are used to inflate an airbag when triggered by a crash, but some used in older vehicles have been over-inflating, sending plastic and metal shrapnel into the passenger compartment.


Toyota Set to Unveil All-New Prius

New model expected to be larger, more sophisticated, more fuel-efficient.

by on Aug.19, 2015

It's unclear what Toyota has in mind for the next-gen plug-in version of the Prius.

What goes up must come down, something even the world’s most popular hybrid-electric vehicle has experienced in recent months. So, Toyota officials have reason to be excited as they get ready to reveal an all-new version of the Prius next month.

Like virtually all battery-based vehicles, sales of the Prius has been hit by low gas prices in recent months, but it remains the world’s most popular hybrid – and one of the best sellers among all vehicles in the big California market.

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The Toyota Prius hasn’t had a major update in seven years, and early reports suggest the new one will grow longer, get a little more power, improve fuel economy and possible stretch its range in all-electric mode. Some reports indicate an optional lithium-ion battery may also become available on the 2016 Prius.


First Drive: 2016 Toyota Tacoma

Toyota points Tacoma off road.

by on Aug.18, 2015

Toyota's new 2016 Tacoma is designed to be a very capable off-road machine with an improved suspension and more powerful engine.

Once upon a time, Toyota touted the Tacoma as an answer to the larger pickup trucks built by Ford Motor Co., General Motors and the old Chrysler Group.

The strategy fell apart, but the Tacoma found its niche anyway. Thanks to the strength of the company’s dealer network in the western U.S., it has earned the loyalty of a substantial group of buyers looking for a durable truck that’s a bit smaller than a Ford F-150 or Chevrolet Silverado and capable of going off road.

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The introduction of the 2016 Tacoma underscores the growing competition in the midsize truck segment where the new Chevrolet Colorado and GMC Canyon have made a big splash and a new Nissan Frontier will appear soon. (more…)

Toyota Reportedly Targeting Nissan with New, Small CUV

Model could be an option for U.S. Scion brand.

by on Aug.11, 2015

The Toyota C-HR concept debuted at the Paris Motor Show last fall, and it appears to be slotted for the bottom of the maker's CUV line-up.

When Toyota pulled the wraps off the C-HR concept at last year’s Paris Motor Show, it seemed a natural fit in the line-up, especially considering the demand for downsized crossover-utility vehicles.

And now, it appears the C-HR – or something based on that concept – will indeed slot into the bottom end of Toyota’s CUV family, according to a report out of Europe.

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A primary market for the new model would be Europe, where it would go up against the likes of the Nissan Qashqai. But what’s unclear is whether there will be an American version, as well. (more…)

Lexus Willing to Let Buyers Walk as it Tries New “No Haggle” Policy

Luxury maker considering a second “flagship” model to sell alongside big LS sedan.

by on Aug.06, 2015

Lexus General Manager Jeff Bracken said the luxury brand is experimenting with no-haggle pricing on a limited basis.

Aiming to improve the showroom experience, Lexus and a dozen of its dealers will try out a new, “no haggle” pricing policy – a move they admit could please some shoppers but send other potential buyers scurrying away.

The experiment, announced during an industry event in Traverse City, Michigan, would mark the first formal adoption of a fixed price approach since General Motors abandoned its Saturn brand during its bankruptcy six years ago.

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Separately, Lexus General Manager Jeff Bracken said the Toyota luxury brand is giving serious consideration to adding a second “flagship” model that would be sold alongside the current top-end model, the big LS sedan. (more…)

Toyota Expecting Only Modest Growth for 1st New Tacoma Pickup in Decade

Capacity limits could see loss of share in growing midsize truck market.

by on Aug.06, 2015

Toyota is hoping the next-gen Tacoma will keep the good times rolling sales-wise in the U.S. in 2015.

When the 2016 Toyota Tacoma rolls into U.S. showrooms next month it will mark the first major update of the midsize pickup in a decade, an eternity by today’s automotive standards.

Considering the long somnambulant segment has suddenly roared back to life in recent months, one might expect to see Toyota prepping for a major surge in sales for the 2016 Tacoma. But it’s not. The Japanese maker is looking for modest growth, at best, for the new pickup next year.

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The reason is simple, according to Toyota division General Manager Bill Fay: “We’re very close to maxxed out on our production capabilities right now,” despite adding more capacity at a plant in Baja, Mexico.


First Drive: 2016 Scion iM

New hatch delivers great value, improving road performance.

by on Aug.05, 2015

The 2016 Scion iM gives the brand an aggressive looking hatchback that hits showrooms on Sept. 1.

Scion is in the middle of a revamp of its line-up to reinvigorate its youthful buying base and as part of that, it’s debuting the new iM that slots right into a growing segment in the U.S.: hatchbacks.

Actually, what’s really getting attention is the “hot hatch” group and, to be honest, powered by a 1.8-liter four cylinder putting out 137 horsepower, the iM is not in that group, which includes things like the Focus RS, the JCW Mini, VW Golf GTI, Chevrolet Sonic RS and the Fiat 500 Abarth.

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However, with a six-speed manual, comfortable seats combined with an aggressive exterior, Scion gives potential buyers a fresh offering of a growing product segment that is a lot of fun to drive … when you wring out that little engine. (more…)

Scion Looking to Automate Buying Process

Brand caters to younger buyers by allowing internet purchases.

by on Aug.04, 2015

Scion is attempting to lure more younger buyers to its vehicles by offering an easier online buying process.

Let’s say you’re a stereotypical millennial and you need to buy something, where will you go? Your computer, tablet or smartphone, of course.

Buy your music? Internet. Buy a Christmas sweater? Internet. Buy a new Scion iM? Internet.

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Toyota’s youth-oriented brand is looking to get those young buyers where they live: on the internet with its new Pure Process Plus internet buying system. (more…)