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Small Car Shoot-Out Heats Up with Updated Toyota Yaris

Subcompact hatchback gets a “new attitude.”

by on Jul.24, 2014

The 2015 Toyota Yaris goes for a more aggressive design to compete in a crowded segment.

There’s a big battle underway in the small car market, and Toyota has rearmed with a new version of the Yaris subcompact.

Coming to market in both three- and five-door hatchback versions, the 2015 Toyota Yaris is the Japanese giant’s newest model to opt for a more aggressive design than Toyota has traditionally been known for, the maker declaring the hatchbacks now have “a new attitude.”

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They’ll need it considering the increasing competition in the small car market from the likes of the recently restyled Nissan Versa and Honda Fit, never mind the domestic small cars that have begun gaining traction in a market long controlled by the Japanese, such as the Chevrolet Sonic and Ford Fiesta.

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Toyota Pulls Wraps Off New Sienna

Automaker opts for online unveiling.

by on Jul.17, 2014

Working with three social media-savvy parents, Toyota launched its 2015 Sienna minivan on the internet.

It isn’t a good time for minivan fans. Two decades ago, they were the hippest things on wheels, just about every maker racing into the segment with new products loaded up with the hottest new features, whether juicebox holders, stowaway seats or rear entertainment systems. But with demand sliding, a growing number of makers are pulling out or trimming their minivan lines, Chrysler soon set to abandon the Dodge Grand Caravan model.

But don’t count Toyota out of the market. Quite the contrary, the maker revealing an updated version of the popular Sienna mom-mobile that introduces an intercom system so parents won’t have to scream at the kids battling in the back seats.

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In what might be a telling move, rather than reveal the 2015 Toyota Sienna at an auto show or some other traditional event, the Japanese maker pulled the wraps off digitally, with an online unveiling that showed off its potential, the maker explained, “through the eyes of three creative, social media-savvy parents. In a series of custom videos, these parents bring to life the everyday and sometimes unexpected adventures possible in and around the Sienna.” (more…)

Despite Skeptics, Fuel-Cell Vehicles Hit the Market

“Fool cells” or “fuel of the future”?

by on Jul.15, 2014

Toyota Executive Vice President Mitsuhisa Kato reveals the company's new FCV fuel cell vehicle in Japan.

Hyundai’s first fuel-cell vehicle, a zero-emissions version of its Tucson sport-ute, has just gone on sale in Southern California, and hydrogen-powered Honda and Toyota models will follow in the months ahead.  Mercedes-Benz is fleet testing its own F-Cell model, and other makers, such as General Motors, may soon enter the fuel-cell market, as well.

To proponents, hydrogen is the ultimate form of clean energy, and one that overcomes many of the drawbacks of battery power such as limited range and long charging cycles. Yet reaction to the technology remains sharply divided.

Fuel for Thought!

Elon Musk, founder and CEO of TeslaMotors, the California-based battery-carmaker, has repeatedly asserted that hydrogen vehicles will never pay off commercially, deriding them as “fool cells.”

But after years on the back burner as money and resources were shifted to battery technology, hydrogen has been regaining momentum in the U.S. and abroad.

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Toyota Selling FCV for $70,000 in Japan

Maker’s fuel cell vehicle will hit U.S. next summer.

by on Jun.25, 2014

Mitsuhisa Kato, Toyota Motor Corp. executive vice president, revealed the pricing of the company's new FCV fuel cell vehicle in Japan.

In the battle for zero-emission vehicle supremacy, everyone now knows what the latest entrant – Toyota’s FCV – will cost: about $70,000.

The Japanese automaker announced pricing on its new fuel cell vehicle, which will be available in Japan starting next spring. About the size of a Camry, the car is expected to come to the U.S. and Europe sometime that summer.

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It will join Hyundai’s Tucson fuel cell and a slew of others on the way, on the fuel cell side of the ZEV-side of the aisle, while the Tesla Model S and other EVs sit on the battery electric side. (more…)

New NHTSA Investigation Puts Spotlight on a Growing List of Airbag Problems

Feds probe airbag problems in 1.1 million more vehicles.

by on Jun.13, 2014

The 2003 Toyota Corolla is one of about 20 models covered by the latest recall related to defective Takata airbags.

With Toyota not only expanding a recall due to defective airbags but also bringing back some vehicles it had previously repaired, U.S. safety regulators have launched an investigation into the airbags produced by Japanese supplier Takata – a move that could impact not only Toyota but a number of other major manufacturers.

Credited with saving thousands of lives, airbags have also been implicated in a number of recent recalls and even blamed for causing some deaths and injuries. And industry observers caution that with the number of airbags found in the typical vehicle rising, the problem could become worse in the years ahead.

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Many, but not all, of the most recent problems have centered around the so-called supplementary inflatable restraints produced by Takata. The new investigation by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration focuses on approximately 1.1 million vehicles sold by Toyota, Nissan, Chrysler, Honda and Mazda. Defective inflators could cause fires or even send debris shooting into the passenger compartment like shrapnel.

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Toyota Repeating, Expanding Earlier Airbag Problem

Maker “renotifying” owners about Airbag problem.

by on Jun.11, 2014

The 2003 Toyota Corolla is one of about 20 models covered by Toyota's expanded airbag recall.

A year after recalling about 2.1 million vehicles due to a faulty airbag system, Toyota says it will “renotify” some owners that they need bring their vehicles back to dealers for repair work. Meanwhile, the maker plans to add another 650,000 vehicles to the list of those impacted by the airbag problem.

Toyota is one of a number of manufacturers affected by a defective airbag inflator system produced by Japanese supplier Takata. The list also includes Honda and Nissan. There have been a number of problems involving airbags in recent years, including systems that could cause shrapnel to inadvertently fire into the passenger compartment when the safety devices inflate.

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The latest Toyota recall covers nearly two dozen models, including some Corolla sedans and Tundra pickups made in 2003 and 2004, as well as some Lexus SC 430 coupes produced between 2002 and 2004. The 650,000 vehicles being added to the list for the first time were all sold in Japan and were produced between 2000 and 2003.

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Toyota Launching Hydrogen Car by Year-End

But new fuel-cell vehicles could carry steep price tag.

by on Jun.09, 2014

Toyota unveiled its FCV hydrogen concept vehicle at the Tokyo Motor Show last autumn.

Toyota will launch production of its first commercially available hydrogen fuel-cell vehicle before the end of the year, according to a report from Japan. That would appear to be months ahead of its original plans.

Toyota, which hasn’t changed its stance of “2015 or sooner” for the release of the car, first revealed plans to get into the hydrogen car market last autumn, at the biennial Tokyo Motor Show. It has produced a number of prototypes in years past, but the Japanese giant has been suggesting that it might go the fuel-cell route as an alternative to depending on battery-electric vehicles to meet tough new Zero-Emission Vehicle, or ZEV standards.

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The first Toyota battery cars would come in at around 8 million yen, according to the Japan Times, which would work out to a hefty $78,000, though the English-language publication noted that by the beginning of the next decade, Toyota would like to trim that to somewhere between 3 million to 5 million yen, or between $30,000 and $50,000 at current exchange rates.

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The 10 Most Stolen — and Recovered Vehicles

Honda again leads the list.

by on May.27, 2014

The 2013 Honda Accord was the most stolen - and recovered - vehicle according to LoJack.

Crime, in general, has taken a sharp drop in recent years, and one reason has been a crackdown on car theft.  While there are a few hot spots left in the country – most of them in California, according to federal data – that crackdown has been paying off.

It’s not just tougher penalties and sting operations aimed at so-called “chop shops” that trade in stolen vehicles. Police across the country are getting a high-tech helping hand from advanced systems that can track and, in some cases, disable a stolen car making it easy for police to arrest thieves and recover the vehicle.

Insight!

A new study by LoJack, the largest of the Stolen Vehicle Recovery System, or SVRS, vendors, reveals which vehicles are both the most stolen and the most often recovered. Some familiar names pop up, including three from Japanese maker Honda. In fact, its Accord model topped the LoJack list for the fifth year in a row.

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Toyota Makes it Three Recalls in One Day

Faulty airbag software added to list, along with defective brakes and spare tires that can fall off.

by on May.22, 2014

The new 2014 Toyota Highlander's airbags could misfire due to a software glitch.

Three’s a charm. Well, maybe not when it comes to recalls. Toyota has now added a third recall for the day, bringing to 430,500 the number of vehicles sold in the U.S. covered by the various safety actions which involve corrosion problems, faulty brakes and defective airbag software.

The latest actions mean the U.S. recall count is rapidly racing upwards towards an all-time record, with Toyota covering more individual vehicles than any other manufacturer but General Motors this year.

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The largest of the three new recalls covers 370,000 Toyota Sienna minivans sold between the 2004 and 2011 model-years and registered in colder climate states. The problem centers around corrosion that can be triggered by road salt and can cause the spare tire of the vans to fall off if their supporting cable rusts out.

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Toyota Announces Two Recalls Covering 380,000 Vehicles

Rust and brake pedal problems with minivans and luxury sedans.

by on May.22, 2014

The Toyota minivan is targeted for recall due to potential corrosion problems that could cause its spare tire to fall off.

The U.S. recall count continues nudging towards an all-time record, Toyota the latest maker to announce a large-scale safety-related callback. More precisely, two separate service actions impacting a total of 380,000 vehicles sold in the U.S.

The largest of the two new recalls covers 370,000 Toyota Sienna minivans sold between the 2004 and 2011 model-years and registered in colder climate states. The problem centers around corrosion that can be triggered by road salt and can cause the spare tire of the vans to fall off if their supporting cable rusts out.

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The tires are stored under the vehicle and a foam splash protector in front of the spare tire carrier may actually wind up allowing high concentrations of salt to build up and eventually corrode the spare tire carrier assembly.

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