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4th-gen Toyota Prius production delayed by 6 months

Mon, 30 Jun 2014 17:59:00 EST

If you were holding off buying a new car in anticipation of the fourth-generation Toyota Prius arriving in 2015, your wait might be a little longer. Company insiders are claiming that production of the bestselling hybrid is being pushed back from spring to possibly as late as December 2015. Toyota is reportedly still making alterations to make sure everything is just right before it unleashes the all-important, efficient hatch on a waiting public.
According to unnamed sources speaking to Automotive News Europe, the main reasons for the delay aren't completely known. It's believed the engineers are still working on making the hybrid powertrain more efficient and improving the new Toyota Global Architecture modular platform. The insiders claim that the final production prototype of the Prius is still under development, and it might be November before it's finalized. From there, it usually takes around 12 months to tool up and for the first car to roll off the assembly line. It would be another year after that before the plug-in variant starts assembly. The national manager of Toyota Product Communications, Michael Kroll, told AutoblogGreen, "As you might expect, we can't comment on future product plans."
Despite the delay, some potential details have already emerged about the new hybrid. A company spokesperson recently told Autoblog via email that Toyota is engineering the next-gen Prius to have smaller, more power-dense electric motors and greater thermal efficiency. The new modular platform is also rumored reduce weight, and the changes could lead to a targeted 10 percent improvement in fuel economy.

Fewest vehicles ever found eligible for Most American survey

Mon, 30 Jun 2014 16:30:00 EST

Once again, the most American car on the market is from an American brand. The Ford F-150 retained its number one spot in Cars.com's annual survey of the most American vehicles, trumping the Toyota Camry, which remains at number two.
Ford taking the top spot is small consolation, though, as the Detroit Three aren't too well represented here. General Motors scored a win at number seven, with the Chevrolet Corvette, while Chrysler squeaked in at number ten, with the Dodge Viper. Outside of those three vehicles, Toyota and Honda dominate the top ten.
What's most remarkable, though, is that there were so few cars available for this year's list.

Toyota asking NHTSA for fuel cell car safety exemption regarding electric shocks

Mon, 30 Jun 2014 16:01:00 EST

Toyota is requesting an exemption from federal safety regulations that govern electric cars as it prepares to launch a small-scale hydrogen fuel-cell vehicle fleet.
The Japanese automaker is targeting Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standard 305, which covers the packaging of high-voltage parts in electric cars. According to Uncle Sam, these systems need to be isolated so that passengers and first responders aren't electrocuted in the event of a crash. That seems pretty smart, but it's become a problem for Toyota's upcoming production fuel cell vehicle, as the mechanism that prevents electric shocks in low-speed crashes will apparently simply keep Toyota's car from even functioning.
Instead of the federally approved system, Bloomberg reports that Toyota plans to insulate the high-voltage wires and cables in the car, along with shielding electrical components like the fuel cells, electric motor and batteries with (presumably non-conductive) metal barriers.

Toyota prices fuel cell sedan $70K in Japan, coming to US and Europe next summer [w/video]

Wed, 25 Jun 2014 10:29:00 EST

Toyota has finally unveiled its FCV hydrogen fuel cell sedan and its Japanese price. We won't have to wait too long to see the first of these revolutionary vehicles on the roads. It will go on sale in Japan in April 2015 and will come to the US and Europe later that summer.
In Japan, the FCV will be priced at roughly 7 million yen before taxes ($68,810 at current exchange rates). However, Toyota makes it clear in the press release that we shouldn't try to extrapolate US MSRP from that figure, saying that official pricing for the US and Europe has not yet been determined. As will be the case in the US, sales in Japan will be limited to parts of the country that already have a hydrogen refueling infrastructure (that means you, California).
The production version of the FCV looks almost identical to the concept from last year's Tokyo Motor Show. There is a new vertical strip of LEDs at each corner of the front air intake and real sideview windows, instead of the nubs on the prototype. The weird squiggles from the rear trim are also gone in favor of a more production-ready look, but the taillights survive the changes mostly intact.

Lightweight Toyota GT86 spotted on Nordschleife with carbon panels, upgraded aero

Tue, 24 Jun 2014 11:05:00 EST

We've seen (and frankly reported on) so many rumors of more powerful and performance-focused versions of the Subaru BRZ, Toyota GT86 and Scion FR-S at this point that haven't materialized that, at this point, we're almost tired of them. Almost. But what we have here was enough to pique our jaded interests as only a carbon-bodied sports car on the Nürburgring could do.
What we're looking at is, well, we don't quite know, to tell you the truth. What we can tell is that it's a Toyota GT86 (Scion FR-S for us) wearing new wheels and a carbon-fiber hood, roof, racing-spec rear wing and subtle lip spoiler. The vents in the hood indicate that the prototype in question could be packing an upgraded engine to go with the lighter body panels and upgraded aero, and the interior (at least as far as we can see) looks pretty well stripped out.
The right-hand drive configuration tells us this is either destined for former territories of the British Empire or for the racetrack. Considering the ride height, full glass and apparent lack of roll cage, our money's on this prototype is being developed for the Japanese Domestic Market, where Toyota badges the sports car simply as the 86. We can always hope, though, that some version makes it into Scion showrooms in North America... we just won't get our hopes up too high.

Airbag recall widens to include BMW, Chrysler, Ford and Toyota

Mon, 23 Jun 2014 15:45:00 EST

The recall of faulty airbag inflators supplied by Takata has exploded today to grow to seven automakers. In most cases, only models in certain high-humidity regions were affected because the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration found in its investigation that moisture played a roll in determining whether there would be a problem. However, some companies opted for national campaigns. The exact number of affected models for these campaigns isn't yet known at this time.
BMW is recalling an undisclosed number of 325i, 325Xi, 330i and 330Xi models from the 2001 through 2005 model years and the 2001-2006 model year versions of the 325Ci and 330Ci for the driver side and passenger side inflators. Only vehicles currently registered in Florida, Puerto Rico, Hawaii and the US Virgin Islands are covered under this recall.
Neither Chrysler's filing with NHTSA nor its press release list the specific models affected, but a company spokesperson told Autoblog that at this time it only covers the driver and passenger side inflators for the 2006 Dodge Charger in Florida, Puerto Rico, Hawaii and the US Virgin Islands

Honda, Nissan and Mazda recalling 3 million vehicles for airbag inflators

Mon, 23 Jun 2014 09:35:00 EST

Three million more vehicles can be added to the worldwide tally to be repaired for the faulty airbag inflators supplied by Takata. Honda, Nissan, and Mazda have all issued recalls to replace the bad part, including about 1.2 million of them in North America. NHTSA has been investigating all three companies, plus Chrysler and Toyota, for potentially affected vehicles.
Honda is recalling roughly 1.02 million Civic, CR-V, Odyssey and Element models In North America, built between April 2000 and October 2002. Mazda needs to repair 14,794 units of the RX-8 and Mazda6, and Nissan has 228,000 vehicles in North America to be fixed.
Chrysler is also starting what it calls a "regional field action" to replace the inflators in the 2006 Dodge Charger, according to a company spokesperson. The company says that it has not yet found the problem in any of its vehicles, but it's being done "out of an abundance of caution." The final number of Chargers affected will be announced later this week.

Honda may recall up to 1M vehicles for airbag issue, following Toyota's lead

Mon, 16 Jun 2014 15:30:00 EST

It seems Toyota won't be the only one recalling the faulty Takata airbag inflators for long. Honda insiders in Japan claim that the company is getting close to announcing its own worldwide campaign that would begin before the end of June.
Unnamed sources close to Honda in Japan tell Automotive News that the company is pursuing an internal investigation into possibly affected models and is working with Takata to gather more information. They claim that it could involve even more than the 1.14 million cars worldwide that the automaker covered under the first recall for the problem in April 2013, including 561,000 vehicles in the US.
Toyota jumpstarted this process last week when it recalled over 2 million cars worldwide, including 844,277 in the US. Soon after, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration began a preliminary evaluation into the issue following six reported incidents, and started assembling data about potentially affected models from Toyota, Honda, Mazda, Nissan, Chrysler. NHTSA also began investigating Takata itself.

Race Recap: 2014 24 Hours of Le Mans defines 'endurance'

Mon, 16 Jun 2014 10:31:00 EST

Commenting on the rush of events that rocked beginning and end of the 24 Hours of Le Mans, Paul Truswell of Radio Le Mans said "the race is about the ability to endure, not just the ability of drivers to do what they do for a long time." The entire race machine, all the way down to the pit boards and radios, has to survive the stress and abuse of the entire day. This was the race to prove those words.
There were two Toyotas, two Porsches and three Audis, five of the seven led the race at some point, six of the seven ran in the top three. Toyota will be hugely disappointed that it didn't win when its car and drivers were so, so strong, but they gave Audi the kind of scare we haven't seen since the best of Peugeot's days, and Toyota did a better job of it even in the loss. Porsche blew away everyone's expectations, falling 3.5 hours short of a fairy tale ending that would have made Disney cry.
But Le Mans doesn't really do fairy tales. Well, not that fairy tale. Audi's Twitter handle during the event was #welcomechallenges. As usual, Le Mans answered for the entire field.

Camatte concept puts the Toy back in Toyota [w/videos]

Mon, 16 Jun 2014 10:01:00 EST

It's been two years since Toyota first revealed its Camatte show car at the Tokyo Toy Show. Though sadly never destined for production, Toyota brought the concept back the following year as the Camatte 57s roadster, and is now returning to the same show with yet another take on the kid-friendly, configurable 1+2 with interchangeable body panels - this time with a slew of features that are fresh not only to the concept itself, but to the industry altogether.
This year the Camatte is being showcased in two forms: a bare chassis in the Tech Lab that lets kids see the inner workings of a modern automobile, and another in the Design Lab that lets kids draw their own motif for the concept that is then displayed on an LED hood.
The overall approach reminds us of the way Toyota's budget brand Daihatsu unveiled the Kopen roadster concept at the Tokyo Motor Show late last year, only even more kid-focused and decidedly more light-hearted than you might otherwise expect from one of the largest industrial giants in the world, and could only have been made for a toy exposition. In Japan. Which would explain the ridiculously upbeat videos below, where you'll also find the brief press release.