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Toyota Looking at New Supra – But Will it Be Electric?

MR2 Successor also reportedly in the works.

by on Nov.12, 2012

Toyota's FT-86 Concept II could serve as the platform for the long-lamented Supra. But might Toyota turn to Tesla to help develop a battery drivetrain?.

“Passion” is a word one hears a lot in conversations with Toyota executives these days, up to and including President Akio Toyoda, who points to recent introductions like the Scion FR-S and Lexus GS to underscore his intentions.

But it’s beginning to look like that’s just the beginning of Toyota’s performance aspirations, with new reports suggesting there could be at least a couple more performance machines on the Japanese giant’s horizons – notably in the form of all-new versions of the long-lamented Supra and MR-2 models.

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But, as the new FR-S demonstrates, Toyota may take a very different approach in bringing those – or other – performance models back to life. One very strong possibility is that it could turn outside for help, perhaps to the likes of California-based Tesla Motors to provide a battery-based drivetrain for a new Supra.

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Toyota Makes it Official With $50,000 RAV4-EV Launch

Maker promises 100-mile range, sporty performance.

by on May.07, 2012

The Toyota RAV4-EV will be sold in only 4 "select" California markets.

Toyota is charging into the electric vehicle market.  Barely two months after beginning sales of its first plug-in hybrid the Japanese giant has officially launched the new RAV4-EV, a fully-electric version of its popular “cute-ute.”

Priced at $49,800 — before a $7,500 federal tax credit – the Japanese maker plans to use the RAV4-EV to test market interest in battery-electric propulsion which got off to a slow start in 2011.  Significantly, the battery-powered ute was developed as part of an unusual alliance between Toyota and California electric vehicle start-up Tesla Motors.

(For more on Toyota’s increasing reliance on joint ventures and alliances, Click Here.)

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The RAV4-EV is expected to get “approximately” 100 miles range and Toyota estimates it will be able to recharge in as little as six hours using a high-power charger. It will meanwhile deliver similar performance to that of the conventional, gasoline-powered RAV4 crossover-ute, according to the maker.

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New RAV4-EV Shows Toyota No Longer Willing to Go it Alone

Japanese giant increasingly dependent upon alliances.

by on May.07, 2012

Toyota will build the RAV4 EV on the same Ontario assembly line producing the conventional version of the crossover.

Toyota today launched its all-new battery-electric vehicle, the RAV4-EV, at the annual International Electric Vehicle Symposium, in Los Angeles.  Based on the maker’s conventionally powered compact ute, the vehicle is intended to test the U.S. market’s interest in electric propulsion.

But it will also be a test of the budding relationship between the Japanese giant and the small California start-up Tesla Motors.  The guts of the RAV4-EV, its lithium-ion driveline, will come from Tesla, a company in which Toyota has so far invested more than $50 million and dangled millions more in contracts like the new electric vehicle.

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More broadly, it’s a test of a significant shift in strategy by the Japanese maker.  For most of its existence, the company – currently the world’s fourth-largest automaker – steadfastly did things on its own.  While other manufacturers frequently partnered with erstwhile rivals to fill gaps in their product and powertrain line-ups, Toyota reached into its vast treasury to fund its own programs or worked with a very small and select group of suppliers – known as a keiretsu — in which it usually held a significant financial stake.

No longer.  Toyota is rapidly lining up an assortment of alliances with not only some of the world’s most prestigious auto manufacturers but also some of its fiercest competitors.

“No one can handle it all by themselves,” acknowledged Yoshi Inaba, president and COO of Toyota Motor North America.

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Slipping Behind, Toyota Racing to Line Up Partners

Maker shifts strategy as it seeks outside help.

by on Feb.10, 2012

Toyota is working with Tesla to bring the RAV4 EV to market later this year.

With what one jealous competitor once described as “more money than god” in its treasury, Toyota has traditionally been a company that liked to keep things in-house.  Even when it worked with outside suppliers it focused on those within its extended family, or keiretsu.

“Toyota was one of the companies that liked to do things its own way,” noted Yoshi Inaba, President and COO of Toyota Motor North America.

But that strategy is shifting fast, the senior executive acknowledged during an appearance at the Chicago Auto Show.  In a subsequent conversation with TheDetroitBureau.com, Inaba hinted there could be a “lot more” joint ventures to come in the near future.

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The maker has already lined up a number of high-profile partners – ranging from Microsoft to Intel, as well as traditional competitors, such as Ford and BMW.  In many cases, this reflects the changing nature of the auto industry, which is facing a need to ramp up its focus on high technology.  But it also suggests that Toyota might be paying the price for past hubris, thinking it could do everything on its own.

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Toyota and Tesla Discussing Billion-Dollar Deal

Japanese giant and American start-up meanwhile reveals plans for building RAV4 EV.

by on Aug.05, 2011

Toyota will build the RAV4 EV on the same Ontario assembly line producing the conventional version of the crossover.

Is there a billion-dollar deal in the works between Japanese auto giant Toyota and the American battery-car upstart Tesla Motors? That appears to be a very real possibility according to comments by Tesla’s founder Elon Musk.

The relationship between the two manufacturers has rapidly been picking up speed since Toyota first decided to turn to Tesla to help develop a battery-electric version of the RAV4 crossover.  Scheduled to go into production next year, the partners today confirmed the RAV4 EV will be produced at the Toyota assembly plant in Woodstock, Ontario.

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The $100 million project is just the start, however, and the makers have already confirmed they are looking at a variety of options to stretch their partnership.  But this week, Tesla Chief Executive Elon Musk put a framework around things by suggesting the projects under study could expand the existing arrangement by “an order of magnitude.”

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Toyota To Debut iQ EV Concept in Geneva

Maker hopes to regain lead in green space.

by on Feb.15, 2011

Toyota plans to put the iQ EV into production in 2012.

Slow to embrace battery-electric vehicles, Toyota is struggling to make up for lost time, and will introduce another electric car concept at the upcoming Geneva Motor Show.

The iQ EV prototype is a lithium-ion-powered version of the little iQ microcar – a conventionally-fueled version of which will soon makes its way to the States wearing a Scion badge.  The four-seater is only slightly larger than the current Smart fortwo.

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The battery concept will deliver about 65 miles per charge, according to Toyota, using a new flat battery pack that is distinctly different from the cylindrical, laptop computer-style lithium-ion batteries that will be used in the RAV4 EV.  That battery-electric crossover, developed in cooperation with the Silicon Valley start-up, Tesla Motors, is due to market in 2012.

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Toyota Reveals New RAV4 EV Battery Crossover

Maker remains cautious about electric propulsion but plans to expand work with Tesla.

by on Nov.18, 2010

Toyota hopes to work out some of the problems with the RAV4-EV by the time it reaches production.

As the legendary Yogi Berra might have said, it was “déjà vu all over again” for Toyota at the 2010 L.A. Auto Show, the company unveiling its new RAV4-EV.

Fourteen years ago, recalled the Japanese maker’s top American executive, Toyota came to the Los Angeles show to reveal another electric vehicle dubbed the RAV4-EV.  That model, which went on sale in 1997, was a flop on the market due to the limitations of the battery technology of that era.  But while CEO Jim Lentz and other Toyota executives said the latest lithium-ion batteries are making great technical strides, they took a cautious and conservative tone when describing the prospects of the latest model to bear the RAV4 EV nameplate.

Batteries were “the critical failing” of Toyota’s first battery-powered crossover, “and remain so,” cautioned Lentz, even as he unveiled the new model and revealed plans to begin fleet testing almost immediately.

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But by the time it actually reaches consumers, said Lentz, Toyota is betting there will be significant advances in the design of the latest RAV4-EV that could make it much more attractive to a mainstream market.  For that, credit little Tesla, the Silicon Vally-based start-up that launched its own battery-powered Roadster two years ago.

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Toyota To Show RAV EV at L.A. Show; Launch of Prius Plug-In Pushed Back to Mid-‘12

Maker expanding battery-driven line-up.

by on Sep.14, 2010

Toyota will reveal a battery-powered version of the RAV4 at the upcoming L.A. Auto Show.

Look for Toyota to pull the wraps off a new battery-driven version of the RAV4 at the upcoming Los Angeles Motor Show.  It will be the first product of a new joint venture between the Japanese maker and the California start-up Tesla Motors.

Meanwhile, the company has also announced that it will begin delivering a plug-in version of the Prius hybrid to North American showrooms by May or June of 2012.  That comes about 18 months later than the company had initially indicated.

That delayed debut will come at about the same time Toyota will launch six new global hybrid vehicles, all of which will reach market by the end of 2012, according to Executive Vice President Takeshi Uchiyamada.

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The alliance between Toyota and Tesla has generated plenty of industry discussion and debate since it was first announced last June.  Initially, the Japanese giant said it would be willing to invest $50 million in the California firm’s IPO, which later proved unexpectedly successful.  Toyota also announced it would turn over the abandoned NUMMI plant, in Fremont, California, to Tesla to use to produce the smaller maker’s planned Model S battery sedan.

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