Owings, Maryland, United States
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 has issued a stop-sale order on six of its core models due to concerns about the flammability of certain seat fabrics. The issue rests not with the cloth and leather covers themselves, but with a piece of seat heater beneath them that fails to meet US Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standards for flame retardancy.
There have been no reports of fires or injuries from the affected cars, which include some of Toyota's biggest volume sellers. 2013 and 2014 Camry, Camry Hybrid, Avalon and Sienna models equipped with heated seats are included in the stop-sale, as are 2014 Tundra pickups and Corolla sedans. The exact number of vehicles with the non-compliant materials are still being tabulated, according to The Detroit Free Press.
According to a Toyota spokesman, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration has been notified, although it remains to be seen if a recall will be issued. Outside of a full recall, though, it's unclear how Toyota will deal with vehicles equipped with the flammable materials that have already found homes.
The U.S. News Best Cars for the Money Awards picks winners by looking at the average transaction price, five-year total cost of ownership, the regard a car has from the automotive press, reliability figures from J.D. Power and Associates and safety data from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration and the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety. The result, according to the magazine, is "the best combination of critical acclaim and long-term value."
Ford nabbed six of the 21 categories that received awards this year, the Focus, Fusion, Fusion Hybrid, Taurus, Escape and Edge getting trophies. Toyota and its Lexus and Scion sub-brands took another five, the Tacoma and Tundra owning the two categories given to pickup trucks. The other ten awards were split between Honda with three, Buick with two, and one each for Subaru, BMW, Hyundai, Chevrolet and Mazda.
Follow the link to see all the winners and read about why they were chosen.