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Toyota launches updated Verso-S in Europe

Wed, 14 May 2014 08:45:00 EST

Globally, the Toyota Yaris has bred more variants than we can shake a stick at. It's been known in different markets as the Vitz, the Platz, the Bella, the Vios and, to us, as the Echo. The first-generation model bred a small cargo van called the Yaris Verso - a mini minivan riding on the shortest wheelbase in its class - which was renamed the Verso-S for Europe and alternatively known as the Space Verso, the Ractis, the Ractis Verso and even the Subaru Trezia in certain markets. And now Toyota has launched a revised version of its Verso-S in Europe.
Arriving as a mid-life facelift after three years on the market, the new Toyota Verso-S has been reinterpreted through the "Keen Look" design language that's been distinguishing the latest generation of Toyotas, particularly in the European market. That means new projector-beam headlights and LED daytime running lights, a reshaped grille with chrome surround, more LEDs around back, a fresh set of 16-inch alloys and new color options.
The interior has likewise been spruced up with new trim and color choices, as well as a tire pressure monitor fitted as standard. There's a new touchscreen display with more connectivity options, upgraded nav and a rearview camera as well. Since Toyota's made no mention of engine upgrades, until we hear back, we have to assume the 1.3-liter inline-four and 1.4-liter diesel engines carry over unchanged with the buyer's choice of either a six-speed manual or continuously variable transmission.

Tier 1 suppliers call GM the worst OEM to work with

Mon, 12 May 2014 16:29:00 EST

Among automakers with a big US presence, General Motors is the worst to work for, according to a new survey from Tier 1 automotive suppliers, conducted by Planning Perspectives, Inc.
The Detroit-based manufacturer, which has been under fire following the ignition switch recall and its accompanying scandal, finished behind six other automakers with big US manufacturing operations. Suppliers had issues with trust and communications, as well as intellectual property protection. GM was also the least likely to allow suppliers to raise their prices in the face of unexpected increases in material cost, all of which contributed to 55 percent of suppliers saying their relationship with GM was "poor to very poor."
GM's cross-town competitors didn't fare much better. Chrysler finished in fifth place, ahead of GM and behind Dearborn-based Ford, which was passed for third place this year by Nissan. Toyota took the top marks, while Honda captured second place.

Tesla pulling plug on Toyota RAV4 EV battery deal

Mon, 12 May 2014 11:31:00 EST

The future of the Toyota RAV4 EV appears to be in doubt. Tesla supplies the EVs battery packs, and it says that production ends later this year.
"Toyota is expected to end the current RAV4 EV model this year," Tesla said in its quarterly financial filing obtained by Bloomberg. "Our production activities under this program are expected to end in 2014," the company said.
This timeline fits closely with the original production plans for the RAV4 EV. When the $100-million project was first announced, Tesla said that it expected to supply battery packs for the vehicle from 2012 to 2014. Building components for the Japanese automaker continues to bring in money, though. In the company's Q1 2014 letter to shareholders, it said: "Automotive revenue included $15 million of Toyota powertrain sales." According to Bloomberg, Toyota has sold just 1,594 RAV4 EV models from 2012 through April 2014. Initially, the business had estimated that it would sell 2,600 units of the electrified crossover.

Unintended acceleration settlement hits Toyota's Q4 bottom line

Fri, 09 May 2014 17:44:00 EST

Depending on how you want to look at things, the US Attorney's Office $1.2-billion dollar settlement with Toyota in March over its unintended acceleration recall was either a big blow to the company or completely inconsequential. From January to March, net income fell five percent to 297 billion yen ($2.89 billion), compared to 313.9 billion yen ($3.05 billion) a year ago. However, the automaker still posted record full-year profits worldwide.
Operating profit also fell in the US by 9 percent to $498.1 million for the quarter, but sales were up by 6 percent to 581,261 vehicles. According to Automotive News, global revenue was still up from January to March by about 13 percent and vehicle sales were up 6 percent to 2.58 million units.
However, the payment to the feds did little to hold the company back last year. For the fiscal year ending March 31, 2014, Toyota had net income of 1.82 trillion yen ($17.7 billion), compared to 962.1 billion yen ($9.5 billion) in the last fiscal year. Total vehicle sales were also up.

Subaru to stop building Camry for Toyota in the US

Fri, 09 May 2014 16:26:00 EST

It was back in 2007 that Subaru of Indiana Automotive, under contract from Subaru minority shareholder Toyota, built the first Toyota Camry at its plant in Lafayette, Indiana. Rumblings of the end of that contract work have been around for a while, as Subaru talked of expanding capacity to build more units and add a line for the Impreza, and Toyota talked of moving Camry production to its Georgetown, KY plant. The news was official internally last November when SIA Executive Vice President Tom Easterday told the Louisville Courier-Journal that Camry production would end. Now, Automotive News reports that both automakers have admitted publicly that the end will come in 2016.
SIA currently has a 170,000-unit capacity devoted to the home-brand Legacy and Outback models, while a $400-million expansion increases that to 300,000 units to prepare the facility for Impreza production in two years. Freeing up the 100,000 units of production devoted to the Camry means a 400,000-unit capability, which is far more than Subaru needs at the moment, but the Toyota exit will allow it to expand any way it sees fit. Subaru has said it will absorb the workers on the Camry line and no jobs will be lost, the mayor of Lafayette saying the development could change the timetable for the expansion.

How Charlotte lost to Plano without even knowing it was dealing with Toyota

Thu, 08 May 2014 14:14:00 EST

With Toyota set to relocate its North American headquarters to the Dallas, TX suburb of Plano following a top-secret, 100-city search, the cities that missed out can now begin asking themselves what happened during a process they apparently knew little about.
That's a particularly brutal task for Charlotte, which, according to North Carolina's Secretary of Commerce, Sharon Decker, finished second to Plano. While Toyota has been fairly open about what it was looking for in a new headquarters city - direct flights to Japan, proximity to its US production facilities, a lower cost of living, high-quality educational facilities and finding a neutral site suitable to the California, Kentucky and New York-based employees that would be relocated - it's been less open about how the finalist cities, which also included Atlanta and Denver, stacked up against each other.
The Charlotte Observer has a few ideas. Part of the problem is the distinct lack of direct flights between Charlotte and Asia. US Airways, which operates a hub at Charlotte/Douglas International Airport, doesn't fly to Asia.

2014 Toyota 4Runner Limited

Thu, 08 May 2014 11:57:00 EST

What would you say if we told you that outside of Jeep and Land Rover, the best brand for those who want to go off road is Toyota? Sounds remarkable, eh? But the truth is, Toyota's history of providing vehicles for the rougher bits of our blue marble dates back to 1950, barely a decade after Willys built the first Jeeps and only a few years after Land Rover made its big debut with the iconic Series I.
In fact, Toyota's start in off-roaders was with a small contract for providing the US Army with vehicles, during the Korean War. From that, the BJ was spawned. This Jeep-like vehicle evolved into the 20 Series and then into the iconic 40 Series Land Cruiser in the 1960s.
So yes, Toyota knows its way around the trails. While the Land Cruiser, deservedly, gets all the attention thanks to its impressive longevity, we're partial to the 4Runner, which is a far more affordable entry that serves as Toyota's challenger to the Jeep Grand Cherokee.

Lexus eschews production in China over quality concerns

Sat, 03 May 2014 09:01:00 EST

One of the more popular trends in the auto industry is setting up production operations in China. Mainstream manufacturers like Ford, General Motors and Volkswagen have done it, and even luxury marques like Audi, BMW and Mercedes-Benz have or will soon have manufacturing ops in the People's Republic.
One company that isn't building cars in China, though, is Lexus. The Toyota-owned luxury brand still manufactures all of its vehicles in Japan (aside from a few RXs, which are built at a Toyota factory in Canada). According to Tokuo Fukuichi, Lexus just isn't ready to build cars there yet.
"The German Three have a brand image that they have cultivated over the past century in their long history, but Lexus is not in people's minds like that yet," Fukuichi-san told Reuters UK.

Jim Lentz exposes more details behind Toyota's move to Texas

Fri, 02 May 2014 18:40:00 EST

Toyota's North American CEO Jim Lentz has already given us a rough idea of what prompted the company's surprise move to the Dallas suburb of Plano, TX from its longstanding headquarters in Torrance, CA. A new story from The Los Angeles Times, though, delivers even more detail from Lentz on the reasoning for the move, what other cities were considered and why the company's current host city wasn't even in the running.
Of course, one of the more popular reasons being bandied about includes the $40 million Texas was set to give the company for the move, as well as the state's generous tax rates. According to Lentz, though, the reason Toyota chose Plano over a group of finalists made up of Atlanta, Charlotte and Denver, was far simpler than that - it was about consolidating its marketing, sales, engineering and production teams in a region that's closer to the company's seat of manufacturing in the south.
"It doesn't make sense to have oversight of manufacturing 2,000 miles away from where the cars were made," Lentz told The Times. "Geography is the reason not to have our headquarters in California."

Toyota GT86 turbo, convertible, sedan variants back on the table

Fri, 02 May 2014 16:26:00 EST

Okay Toyota, make up your mind. Figure it out. Quit playing games with our heart. Either build a bunch of variations of the excellent GT86 (also known as the Scion FR-S and Subaru BRZ) or don't. At this point, we're just tired of the back and forth. After no shortage of denials, an Australian website is claiming that Toyota is reconsidering convertible, four-door, turbocharged and all-wheel-drive hybrid variants of the GT86. Kindly pass all the salt.
It's not that we don't want to believe the Aussies; we do. But when the story lists the same "sources in Japan" as a lot of the other denials and confirmations about GT86/BRZ/FR-S variants, well, there's a certain sense of the "Boy That Cried Wolf," here. Ignoring all that, then, what does Motoring.com.au claim to know?
Sources claim the GT86 Convertible will arrive in October 2014, while the turbocharged and hybrid sedans are slated for 2016.