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Toyota's Psy-style Waku-Doki ad inherits Japan's bizarre ad crown

Tue, 29 Jul 2014 12:45:00 EST

A new Japanese Toyota ad featuring crisply suited businessmen driving into the jungle only to segue into a Psy-style music-video dance-off with a gorilla and natives is the latest car commercial to go viral. Jungle Wakudoki is the newest installment in a grand tradition of bizarre ads from the island nation that are by turns hilarious, head-scratching and occasionally even frightening.
Let's face it: My people are weird.
I'm half-Japanese and take suitable pride in my Asian roots, but even I can't figure out what's been slipped into the water coolers of the country's ad agencies much of the time - or the nation at large, for that matter. From Japan's ubiquitous obsession with all things adorable (kawaii) to its offbeat sense of humor and its bizarrely perverse and violent tentacle porn, it's clear there's a lot going on in the culture, and only some of it bubbles up to the surface in its marketing efforts. Much of the strangest and most amazing ads are for non-transportation products (e.g. laundry soap, snacks, energy drinks), but the automotive space has its fair share. This latest Toyota ad had me trawling YouTube for a common theme, trying to make sense of why these spots are the way they are. Scroll down to watch the Toyota ad in question as well as a bunch of other examples of Japan's most bizarre car-related ads and see if you can't find the thread that runs between them. Is it just that something's being lost in translation? Have your say in Comments.

2015 Toyota Yaris to start at $14,845* and look like this

Thu, 24 Jul 2014 13:30:00 EST

Toyota released a new Yaris in Europe and its Vitz clone in Japan a few months ago, so we knew it would only be a matter of time before it would launch the new hatchback here in North America. And that time has come.
The new, more distinctive 2015 Yaris features far more aggressive exterior styling, a look set apart by that large lower air dam and X-motif front end. It rides on a retuned suspension hooked up to an altogether more rigid chassis, and Toyota promises it will ride more quietly and comfortably than the model it replaces. Inside the new model has additional soft-touch materials in a more comfortable cabin equipped with everything from a 6.1-inch touchscreen display to nine airbags.
The 2015 Yaris comes in both three- and five-door bodystyles, and three trim levels that seek to eliminate the need for options packages. In fact the only option to speak of is a dealer-installed nav system. Power comes from a modest 1.5-liter four with variable valve timing, dual overhead cams and sixteen valves, sending 106 horsepower and 103 pound-feet of torque through either a five-speed manual or four-speed automatic.

MotorWeek proves '90s were awesome with Supra, Stealth, RX-7, Corvette, 968, 300ZX comparo

Thu, 24 Jul 2014 12:31:00 EST

Oh, the heady days of 1993, back when the Clinton Presidency was just getting underway, and it seemed like every hot new rock band was coming out of Seattle. Sports cars in the US had finally shaken off the shackles that slowed them during the '70s and '80s, and you could buy any number of legitimately quick vehicles again. MotorWeek recently went digging into its archives to find this six-model test from 1993 showing off some of the best semi-affordable performance coupes that money could buy at the time, and it's priceless.
Featuring the 1994 model year Toyota Supra in twin-turbo guise and MY 1993 versions of the Porsche 968, Nissan 300ZX TT, Mazda RX-7, Dodge Stealth R/T Turbo and Chevrolet Corvette LT-1, MotorWeek definitely covered all of the bases. One thing that might surprise younger readers is these cars' performance. The video only provides 0-60 acceleration times, but several of these vehicles would still be considered pretty potent today - over 20 years since going on sale. The Supra is especially impressive, hitting 60 miles per hour in just 5 seconds. Even today, that's nothing to sneeze at.
Given their performance potential and still-attractive looks, it's amazing that some of these coupes are old enough to drink now. The progress of interior design and safety equipment in the intervening years is pretty shocking, though. In most of these models, having two airbags is touted as a big deal. Scroll down to watch a Throwback Thursday blast from the past about some of the '90s best sports cars.

Toyota engineer warns automous cars could increase fuel use, urban sprawl

Fri, 18 Jul 2014 11:31:00 EST

An increasing number of people are starting to consider the potential downsides of a transition to autonomous cars. The FBI is already looking at them for the potential ill effects on law enforcement, and a scientist for Toyota is raising the possibility that driverless vehicles could actually be detrimental to the environment over the long term.
Ken Laberteaux, who studies future transportation for Toyota, thinks that autonomous cars could lead to more pollution, not less, says Bloomberg. However, Laberteaux's theory isn't so much based purely on science as it is considering behavioral and historical trends. "US history shows that anytime you make driving easier, there seems to be this inexhaustible desire to live further from things," said Laberteaux during a presentation at the Automated Vehicles Symposium in San Francisco, CA, cited by Bloomberg.
Laberteaux's belief is that if commuters can make their drives easier, then they will be more willing to live farther away from the cities where they work. The end result would be more urban sprawl and increased pollution from the longer travel times.

Unifor may establish local union for Toyota's Canadian plants

Thu, 17 Jul 2014 13:59:00 EST

Union tactics apparently translate across borders, as Canada's Unifor may take inspiration from the United Auto Workers' recent move at the Volkswagen factory in Chattanooga, TN, and establish a local for the Toyota factories in Cambridge and Woodstock.
Unifor last attempted to organize the workers at the two factories, which are responsible for production of the Toyota Corolla (above), RAV4 and Lexus RX back in April, but that vote was eventually delayed. According to that report, 3,000 of the two plants' 7,500 employees signed union cards, but that apparently wasn't enough for Unifor to force a vote.
Because of this, the union is looking at the local approach, like what the UAW is attempting with VW.

2015 Toyota Sienna SE keeps the swagger, adds thoughtful updates [w/videos]

Thu, 17 Jul 2014 10:00:00 EST

Toyota found huge success with its "Swagger Wagon" rap video for the 2011 Sienna SE. It showed that a minivan could actually sort of maybe be fun and didn't have to be a lame vehicle for people who long ago lost their sense of humor. Now that there is a slight refresh for the 2015 model, the company is trying to capture that effervescent image again with a bunch of videos aimed at families.
For the latest launch, Toyota is partnering with some family-friendly online video stars and having them show off the Sienna's features. It's releasing YouTube videos from the creators of Action Movie Kid and Convos with My 2-Year-Old and a Vine from Eh Bee Family, and they all hope to show that it's cool to be a family with a minivan.
In terms of actual changes, though, the update is pretty light aesthetically, but the new tech inside seems aimed directly at mom and dad. However, unless you've got a sharp eye, spotting the exterior refresh might be tough. Toyota is tweaking the front end slightly by adding a dark mesh grille and trim. The headlights are also slightly reshaped to incorporate a new strip of available LED running lights.

How Toyota's neighbor delayed 23,000 of its deliveries

Thu, 17 Jul 2014 09:02:00 EST

Don't you just hate when your neighbors' mess becomes your problem? Toyota certainly has good reason to be upset, after an dirty mishap at a steel mill delayed thousands of vehicle exports from its nearby port in Nagoya, Japan, (pictured above) by as much as a month.
The messy situation occurred on June 22 when the mill near the port lost power and had to burn off an excess buildup of coke oven gas - which isn't exactly a situation friendly to living beings or the environment. According to Automotive News, it caused a massive amount of smoke to emit from the plant that fell as soot and tar on about 23,000 vehicles that were waiting to be shipped out. Getting the models properly cleaned off has been quite a task. A team of 5,000 workers were at the port until this week getting them gleaming again.
Potential Toyota buyers in North America have no need to fret about getting a sullied car, though. A Toyota spokesperson told Automotive News that none of the vehicles were bound for this continent. The automaker is reportedly considering asking the mill's owners for reimbursement for the cost of the weeks of cleanup. Paying for the mistake is, after all, the neighborly thing to do.

Toyota Prius sets a different kind of Nurburgring lap record [w/video]

Tue, 15 Jul 2014 19:01:00 EST

Scroll down the leaderboards of Nürburgring lap times and you'll see mostly racing cars, supercars and sports cars. Delve deep enough and you'll eventually get to hatchbacks and sedans, albeit the most performance-focused of their kind. But a hybrid? Sure, the Porsche 918 Spyder posted the top time for a street-legal series production car, and it's technically a hybrid, but we're talking about another kind of hybrid here. We're talking about a Toyota Prius.
That's right: the Prius just set a lap record around the Nordschleife. But it wasn't for the lap time. In fact, miles per hour barely factored in (except for staying above the minimum 37-mph average speed mandated on the vaunted racing circuit). No, this was about miles per gallon.
Toyota took one of its Prius Plug-In hybrids to the Nürburgring, topped up the battery, put on a set of low-rolling-resistance tires and put automotive journalist Joe Clifford behind the wheel with a mandate to use as little fuel as possible. After one second shy of 21 minutes, the Prius completed its lap having used just five tablespoons of fuel.

2014 Toyota FJ Cruiser Ultimate Edition

Thu, 10 Jul 2014 12:01:00 EST

Introduced at the end of 2006, this is the last year for the Toyota FJ Cruiser, the reincarnated FJ40-series Land Cruiser that will shortly journey to Takama-ga-hara, the Plain of High Heaven. In its first model year, we drove it to SEMA and found it, shall we say, coarse. It bobbled on the freeway and droned in the cabin, its boxy interior providing four bounce-boards for unpleasant frequencies. Tall mirrors helped one work around the eclipse of vision aft of the B-pillars, but navigating traffic required forethought and technique. Its turning circle was measured in kilometers. For the first two years of its life, it needed premium gas. It may have been fun to look at, but we couldn't wait to get out of it.
That's not the case anymore, and now the FJ Cruiser is poised to join a long list of vehicles that got better and better, then got axed.
Driving Notes

Lexus LX to get diesel engine?

Tue, 08 Jul 2014 07:59:00 EST

Australian consumers appear poised to get another diesel-burning luxury SUV in the near future, and word is it's coming from Lexus, of all automakers. Sean Hanley, chief executive of the company's branch in Oz, recently told Aussie website Drive that he's "pretty confident" that the new engine for the LX is getting the green light.
Like in the US, the LX in Australia is currently only offered with a 5.7-liter, gasoline-burning V8. However, sales of the big SUV are presently minuscule Down Under, with Drive reporting just 153 LX570s sold in all of Oz last year. Hanley is negotiating with Japan to get the new diesel in hopes of boosting flagging sales. If his efforts are successful, it would be the first diesel engine offered in a Lexus there. Hanley didn't specify exactly which mill the SUV would get. However, given the LX's close relationship with Toyota Land Cruiser, the diesel 4.5-liter twin-turbo V8 already available in the Toyota in markets outside of North America seems like a natural choice.
Don't expect the variant to be hopping across the Pacific, though. Lexus spokesperson Allison Takahashi tells Autoblog she has heard "nothing" about an oil-burning LX coming to the US. That's not a huge surprise, though, because neither Toyota nor Lexus offer any diesels in their lineups today. Also, Lexus has only sold 1,981 LX570s through June, which only placed it ahead of the LFA supercar in the brand's sales. It's probably just not worth certifying the engine for such a low-volume model.