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Tesla expects another higher-volume deal with Toyota in next few years

Tue, 09 Sep 2014 11:33:00 EST

Four months have passed since Toyota ended its relationship with Tesla Motors, in which the electric-vehicle specialist supplied full lithium-ion battery packs to the Japanese behemoth for its RAV4 EV rollout, of which 2,500 vehicles will be completed. Now, Tesla founder and CEO Elon Musk has been heard suggesting that a future collaboration is likely within the next two to three years, and that it will probably be much larger than the last one.
Both Tesla and Toyota have sung each other's praises in the not-too-distant past, Toyota telling Autoblog back in May, "We have a good relationship with Tesla and will evaluate the feasibility of working together on future projects." According to Automotive News, Musk said of the Japanese giant, "We love working with Toyota... We have a huge amount of respect for them as a company and certainly much to learn."
Interestingly, though, the two automakers have rather divergent strategies for eco-friendly automobiles. Toyota, as you're surely aware, is the clear-cut leader in hybrids and has thrown its massive support in the direction of hydrogen fuel cells, while Tesla has invested heavily in battery-electric technology and high-speed charging stations.

Toyota highlights JDM Mark X with special Yellow Label edition

Fri, 05 Sep 2014 09:31:00 EST

Never heard of the Toyota Mark X? That's because the Japanese automaker only sells it in its home market (and in China as the Reiz). It's a rear-drive (or all-wheel-drive) sports sedan about the size of a Lexus IS, whose existence is probably why Toyota will never bring the Mark X to North America. The current model has been on the market since 2009, but Toyota is rolling out a series of updates - including the new Yellow Label model pictured here.
Available on the 250G, 250G Four and 250G S trim levels, the Yellow Label gets a special shade of Awaken Yellow paint (though it can be had in black, white or silver as well), with an interior decked out in either yellow or black. It also gets piano lacquer trim, yellow stitching, pink gold accents, special tread plates and other interior equipment upgrades, as well as a unique set of alloys. All of which makes the Toyota Mark X Yellow Label perfect for recreating scenes from Kill Bill without the need to squeeze into yellow leathers. (In fact we wouldn't be surprised to see Toyota doing just that for a promo clip.)
Power comes from a 2.5-liter V6 (and not the larger 3.5 available on the 350S model) channeled through a six-speed automatic to either the rear wheels or all four. Pricing ranges between 2.8 and 3.1 million yen (~$26-30k), representing a premium of about 106k yen ($1k) over non-yellow models. Toyota operates four distinct dealer networks in Japan, and the Mark X is sold through Toyopet stores.

Toyota will steer clear of driverless cars

Thu, 04 Sep 2014 10:58:00 EST

Toyota executives say the company's primary focus is on safety. At least for the time being, that means the company won't pursue development of a driverless car.
Speaking at the company's advanced safety seminar in Ypsilanti, MI, Thursday morning, Seigo Kuzumaki, Toyota's deputy chief safety technology officer, said that Toyota envisions a future driving environment that optimizes the best of both humans and computers, not choosing one over the other.
"Toyota's main objective is safety, so it will not be developing a driverless car." - Seigo Kuzumaki

2015 Toyota Camry priced at $22,970*, Hybrid at $26,790*

Tue, 02 Sep 2014 17:00:00 EST

We last saw the heavily revised 2015 Toyota Camry at the New York Auto Show earlier this year. Now, it's finally time for the best-selling car in the US to hit the roads in late September, and Toyota is announcing how much the updated model actually costs.
The basic Camry LE rings up for $22,970 (*not including a $825 delivery, processing and handling fee). That's up slightly from the base price of $22,425 for the 2014.5 LE, but the updated sedan has some 2,000 new parts, while also being 1.8 inches longer and boasting a 0.4-inch wider track. The rest of the trim levels include the SE for $23,840, sporty new XSE for $26,150 and XLE at $26,150. Opting for the V6 is the XSE and XLE bumps pricing to $31,370.
Separately, the Camry Hybrid gets its own LE, SE and XLE trims. The LE starts at $26,790 with a standard, power driver's seat and 4.2-inch information display. The SE for $27,995 gets an improved interior and the XLE at $29,980 has leather, heated front seats, LED running lights and more.

2015 Toyota Tundra TRD Pro priced from $41,285*

Fri, 29 Aug 2014 10:59:00 EST

Just a few weeks after announcing pricing for the first two members of its TRD Pro Series, Toyota has finally dropped the final pricing details on its new Tundra TRD Pro. Like the Tacoma TRD Pro, the Tundra will be available in two different body styles, with a more affordable Double Cab and a roomier Crew Cab.
Prices start at $41,285 for the former and $43,900 for the latter - not counting a hefty $1,100 destination charge - effectively slotting Toyota's off-road-ready model between the $41,730, Double Cab Limited and $46,465, Crew Cab-only 1794 Edition trucks.
As we've covered previously, the TRD Pro models come with a raft of off-road gear that should help combat just about any terrain a driver may stumble across. TRD-tuned Bilstein shocks and TRD-tuned front springs add two inches to the big truck's ride height while the black, 18-inch TRD wheels and available Inferno Orange paint add a bit of visual sass. A new TRD dual exhaust system is also standard, which can confirm sounds great (review coming soon!).

Toyota celebrates 30th anniversary of Land Cruiser 70 with Japan rerelease [w/videos]

Tue, 26 Aug 2014 19:00:00 EST

It's a common refrain among auto enthusiasts to bemoan the current models being sold for being overly complex and expensive and to wish that automakers would just make vehicles like the old days. Sure, they might not have been as safe or efficient, but there was often a certain rugged simplicity that's gone today. Well, Toyota is actually doing it and thinks there's enough demand to put the Land Cruiser 70 back into production in Japan for its 30th anniversary. Sadly, it's only for one year.
The original Land Cruiser 70 served a long life in Japan from 1984 to 2004. Even today, the proven model remains in production in some regions abroad. People in its home country still love the vehicle though, and Toyota is brushing off the mothballs to give customers what they want. For the first time ever there, it's also offering the double-cab pickup version in addition to the traditional enclosed body. The company thinks that it can move about 200 of these classic trucks this year, which isn't too shabby for a vehicle that's three decades old.
Looking at the pictures above, these look like the same old Land Cruisers, but Toyota is updating them slightly to meet modern safety rules. The grille, hood and headlights are all tweaked, and they now come with airbags and anti-lock brakes. A 4.0-liter V6 is under the hood making 228 horsepower (170 kilowatts) and 266 lb-ft of torque (360 Newton-meters), and the only available gearbox is a five-speed manual. Part-time four-wheel drive is standard. If you're really afraid of getting stuck in the wilderness, locking front and rear differentials and a winch are available as options.

Toyota makes $100M investment to boost Indiana Highlander production

Mon, 25 Aug 2014 13:31:00 EST

Toyota has announced that it will be making a $100 million investment in its Princeton, IN factory in a bid to increase production of its popular Highlander CUV. The move will create 300 new jobs by 2016 and increase the total number of crossovers the plant can produce by 30,000.
Toyota currently builds the Highlander, alongside the fullsize Sequoia, at Toyota Indiana's West Plant. The additional capacity, though, will be sent to the East Plant, which is currently responsible for production of the recently refreshed Sienna minivan.
"The Highlander has been a great product for our plant," Toyota Indiana President Norm Bafunno said in a statement. "Establishing Highlander as the 'bridge vehicle,' as we call it, between the East and West plants increases our ability to meet customer needs for our outstanding products. This exciting news is a true testament to the capability of our hard-working and dedicated team members."

Thieves still love older Hondas and pickups most, says NICB [w/video]

Wed, 20 Aug 2014 19:00:00 EST

No one wants to have their car stolen, but a new study by the National Insurance Crime Bureau has some bad news for older Honda owners and pickup drivers. Fortunately, it has better news for drivers overall. The group is reporting that according to preliminary data from the Federal Bureau of Investigation, thefts were down 3.2 percent in 2013 (versus 2012) to fewer than 700,000 cars. That's the lowest figure since 1967. That's also less than half of the peak of over 1.66 million thefts in 1991. "The drop in thefts is good news for all of us," says NICB President and CEO Joe Wehrle. "But it still amounts to a vehicle being stolen every 45 seconds and losses of over $4 billion a year."
Honda drivers might not find it such good news with older Accord and Civic models topping this year's theft study. Toyota and Dodge can't really celebrate, either, with two models each on the list, as well. Overall, this year's list was split evenly between foreign and domestic models, which were mostly pickups.
The 10 most likely vehicles to be stolen in 2013 were:

Japanese spark plug giant NGK pleads guilty to price fixing, to pay $52M fine

Wed, 20 Aug 2014 18:00:00 EST

The ongoing investigation by the Department of Justice into price fixing in the automotive industry has nabbed one more company breaking the law. Japanese parts giant NGK Spark Plug Company agreed to plead guilty to a felony count of pricing fixing and bid rigging in the in the US District Court in Detroit. Its punishment is a $52.1 million criminal fine and to continue to cooperate with the DOJ's sleuthing into the problem.
According to the DOJ, NGK conspired to fix prices on spark plugs, standard oxygen sensors, and air fuel ratio sensors on vehicles from major automakers in the US, including the former DaimlerChrysler, Honda and Toyota, in a scheme that ran from at least January 2000 to July 2011. The charge claimed that the company and its co-conspirators held meetings where they agreed on bids and price quotes that were submitted to the automakers.
With the latest plea, the DOJ has caught 28 companies and 26 executives for price-fixing and bid rigging in the auto parts industry, and they have collected $2.4 billion in criminal fines. In 2013, the feds brought nine Japanese suppliers down at once, to collect $740 million. Scroll down to read the DOJ's complete announcement of the case.

Weekly Recap: Things you might not know about the 2015 Dodge Charger and Challenger Hellcats

Sat, 16 Aug 2014 12:01:00 EST

If you're an enthusiast, and you don't know that Dodge spawned another Hellcat this week, you really must have been living in cave. The 2015 Dodge Charger SRT Hellcat is probably the biggest news for enthusiasts since the reveal of, well the 2015 Dodge Challenger SRT Hellcat.
But, there are some things you might not know or might have missed about the new Charger and Challenger Hellcats. For starters, reports that the Hellcat production would be limited to a low volume are not true.
"We have not capped the Hellcat on either the Challenger or the Charger," Dodge CEO Tim Kuniskis said.