When Toyota decides to release a new car, everyone takes note. Toyota Motor Corp. said it’s chosen the name “Mirai,” which means “future” in Japanese, for a fuel-cell powered sedan that travels 483 kilometers with a hydrogen tank that can be refilled in less than five minutes.
The announcement, on the eve of the Los Angeles auto show, increases the company’s commitment to fuel cells, as opposed to battery-only cars, as long-term alternatives to internal combustion engines, said Jeff Liker, a University of Michigan engineering professor. Toyota also promised to develop and supply fueling stations in northeastern U.S. states.
Liker predicted Toyota’s fuel-cell commitment will be as significant as those that came in 1989, when the company introduced its Lexus luxury brand in the U.S., and in 1997, when it started selling Prius gasoline-electric hybrids. Lexus led the U.S. market in luxury sales for 11 years, and Prius is by far the top-selling hybrid line, now with four models.
“In most cases, Toyota has been a fast-follower, not a leader,” Liker said. “But when it comes to the environment, they’re seeking to play an aggressive leadership role.”
Many battery-only cars in the U.S. can travel fewer than 100 miles on a full charge, and charging them can take hours. Toyota argues that fuel-cell cars can provide the same clean transportation with far greater convenience. And with a low center of gravity, it’s particularly fun to drive, Akio Toyoda, the company’s chief executive officer, said in a videotaped statement.
“Today, we are at a turning point in automotive history,” he said. “A turning point where people will embrace an environmentally friendly car that is a pleasure to drive.”
In its statement, Toyota didn’t provide details on how much the Mirai will cost in the U.S., or how many the company hopes to sell. Toyota has said previously the car will go on sale in Japan in April for about 7 million yen ($60,300), with U.S. and European introductions a few months later.
Automakers are under pressure in California, as well as across the U.S., Europe, Japan and South Korea, to offer vehicles that emit little or no carbon pollution and reduce petroleum use.
Battery-powered cars championed by Tesla Motors Inc. and Nissan Motor Co. store electricity in large lithium-ion packs. Fuel cells generate it in an electro-chemical reaction of hydrogen and air, producing only water vapor as a byproduct.
Honda Motor Co. has said it will offer a revamped hydrogen sedan in California in 2015. In May, Hyundai Motor Co. began leasing a fuel-cell version of its Tucson sport-utility vehicle.
To help promote fuel-cell sales, California plans to install more than 50 hydrogen fuel stations within two years, partly with financial support from Toyota and other automakers. Toyota will also start working with Paris-based Air Liquide SA to build 12 fueling stations in five northeastern U.S. states, the company said in its statement.
Most commercial hydrogen is made from natural gas in a process that consumes energy and emits carbon. Hydrogen, the most abundant element in the universe, is also the lightest, making it difficult and sometimes dangerous to store and transport.
Tesla Chief Executive Officer Elon Musk said hydrogen’s shortcomings make it a dead-end for vehicles. “Fuel cells should be renamed ‘fool cells,’ they are so stupid,” he said in an interview last year.
By 2025, California plans to require about one of seven vehicles sold by each of the biggest automakers to eliminate or reduce emissions by using fuel cells, batteries, or gas-electric hybrid engines. Ten other states are taking similar steps. These steps are the right steps but are they coming too late?
Mini Cooper is forced to drop its fuel economy today after BMW AG is lowering the estimated fuel economy labels on four 2014 Mini Cooper models after tests by the U.S. EPA, the agency said today.
The EPA completed a fuel economy audit on the Mini Cooper and found actual mpg lower than the figures BMW submitted for certification, a statement said.
As a result, the EPA supervised a new round of tests by BMW. The agency also conducted its own testing of the Mini Cooper at the National Vehicle and Fuel Emissions Laboratory in Ann Arbor, Mich.
The agency is ordering BMW to relabel four 2014 Mini Cooper models — the Mini Cooper hardtop with a manual and an automatic transmission and the Mini Cooper S hardtop with a manual and an automatic transmission — that proved to have lower fuel economy than the mpg label showed.
“While this necessitates change, the 2014 MINI Hardtop still delivers outstanding fuel efficiency,” BMW said. “We have sent new labels for 2014 models in stock to our dealers.”
BMW will have all four models’ combined and city mpg ratings fall by 1 mpg, while highway estimates will drop 1 to 4 mpg depending on the model.
“Fuel economy values matter to consumers and automakers,” Christopher Grundler, director of EPA’s office of transportation and air quality, said in a statement. “To provide consumers with the most accurate, reliable and repeatable fuel economy values, we are continuing to strengthen our oversight to ensure fair competition among automakers.” How will this consumers overall evaluation of the new Mini Cooper?
Another recall by Toyota lis causing many consumers to no longer trust the car manufacture. Toyota Motor Corp. called back 1.75 million vehicles worldwide to fix braking and fuel systems flaws, the first global recall since the U.S. put the car maker under stricter safety supervision.
The Lexus IS, GS and LS luxury sedans and Toyota Auris compact hatchback are among the 10 models being called back, according to an e-mail from the Toyota City, Japan-based auto maker. The company said that it isn’t aware of any fires, crashes, injuries or fatalities resulting from the defects.
The safety campaign is Toyota’s fourth this year involving at least 1 million vehicles as the auto industry responds to scrutiny over tardy recalls. General Motors Co. has called back a record 30 million cars and trucks this year in North America, while Toyota has dealt with renewed attention to safety after recalling more than 10 million vehicles in 2009 and 2010 for defects related to unintended acceleration.
“With the lessons learned from past recalls in North America, Toyota keeps showing the attitude to proactively recall and have everything under control before any serious accident happens,” said Takashi Aoki, a Tokyo-based fund manager at Mizuho Asset Management Co. “I don’t think this recall would damage the brand image, or cause the shares to decrease, as there were no injuries, fatalities or crashes.”
Toyota’s shares pared gains to trade 0.2 per cent higher at 5,990 yen at the close in Tokyo. The Nikkei 225 Stock Average gained 0.9 per cent.
Model Recalls Toyota is calling back about 802,000 Crown, Crown Majesta, Noah and Voxy models made June 2007 to June 2012 to replace a rubber seal in the brake system that could crack and cause fluid to leak, leading to degraded performance.
The auto maker is also recalling the Crown and Crown Majesta, as well as the Mark X and iterations of the three Lexus models to repair fuel delivery pipes that could leak and increase fire risk. A third flaw involves about 190,000 Rumion and Auris cars in Japan that Toyota dealers will fix by replacing emission-control units that could cause fuel leaks and lead to greater fire risk.
Toyota first received a report of a problem that prompted the fuel delivery pipe recall in June 2010 in the U.S., said Tokyo-based spokesman Dion Corbett. The company received initial reports from Japan for the brake fix in July 2011 and the emission control units in January last year.
U.S. Monitor Today’s recall is the first major global campaign by Toyota since David Kelley, a New York-based partner at Cahill Gordon & Reindel LLP and former U.S. Attorney, was appointed by the U.S. Justice Department in August to supervise the car maker’s safety procedures.
Kelley will review Toyota’s policies and verify the accuracy of its public statements for three years as part of the automaker’s $1.2-billion settlement for the unintended– acceleration recalls.
Toyota has now recalled about 5.3 million vehicles in the U.S. market this year, according to its U.S. media website. A total count for vehicles recalled globally wasn’t immediately available, Corbett said.
The U.S. National Highway Traffic Safety Administration last month said it would renew scrutiny of claims involving unintended acceleration. As many as 1.69 million Toyota Corollas with model years from 2006 to 2010 could be subject to investigation depending on the regulator’s evaluation of an owner’s claim of unintended “low-speed surging.”
Safety Campaigns Toyota in June expanded a 14-month-old recall of more than 2 million vehicles for faulty air bags after supplier Takata Corp. told customers further fixes may be needed. The car maker added about 650,000 vehicles in Japan including Corolla cars to the safety campaign. After a year of recalls Toyota will have a lot of work ahead of them in order to regain customers trust.
The best cars are here, and they are ready to be bought! 2015 model-year cars and trucks are starting to filter into dealers in earnest, and with that, the newly expanded jury from the North American Car and Truck/Utility of the Year awards is getting serious about assessing this year’s talented new crop with an eye toward doling out the awards in January.
Back in the beginning of August, the NACTOY jury released this year’s long list of around 60 new vehicles that it would consider for the awards. While that list basically included everything slated to go on sale in the 2015 model year, this tighter list of 10 cars and 12 truck/utility/crossover vehicles highlights the products that the self-funded, independent and non-profit jury of North American auto writers have determined to be worthy of closer inspection and consideration.
This year, no one automaker dominates the short list, but Ford, General Motors and Toyota have tied with three nominees apiece. The Blue Oval’s contenders include Mustang, F-150 and the Lincoln MKC, while Toyota has its redesigned Camry, Highlander and Lexus NX crossover. Finally, GM’s slate is made up of the Chevrolet Colorado and GMC Canyon twins and the Tahoe SUV. Audi, Hyundai and Mercedes-Benz have scored a pair of nominations each.
2015 North American Car of the Year Short List
2015 North American Truck/Utility of the Year Short List
At this still-early stage in the yearly judging, most jurors have not driven every nominee due to late vehicle availability (e.g., Nissan Murano), but the panel has been encouraged to give vehicles the benefit of the doubt in voting when culling the nominees down from long list to short list in order to ensure they get their just consideration. How will next years car lot compete!
General Motors recalled hundreds of thousands of cars due to their faulty ignition, but was it too late? The death toll tied to faulty ignition switches in General Motors’ small cars has risen to 19, according to a compensation expert hired by the company. That number is likely to rise.
Kenneth Feinberg determined 19 wrongful death claims are eligible for payments from GM; the company’s estimate of deaths has remained at 13 for months, although the automaker acknowledged the possibility of a higher count.
Feinberg received 125 death claims due to the faulty switches in older-model small cars such as the Chevrolet Cobalt. The rest remain under review or require further documentation, he said in a report issued Monday.
“The public report is simply reporting on those eligible to date,” Feinberg spokeswoman Camille Biros said in an email. “There will certainly be others.”
GM has admitted to knowing about the ignition switch problem for over a decade, though it didn’t begin recalling the switches in 2.6 million small cars until earlier this year. The automaker hired Feinberg to compensate victims of crashes caused by the switches, and Feinberg has said GM has not limited the total amount he can pay.
Some lawmakers have estimated the death toll is closer to 100.
Biros, citing confidentiality agreements, said Feinberg will not identify any of those eligible for payments, nor will he say if the 19 deemed eligible include the 13 deaths that GM has documented. GM has not identified the 13 victims; the U.S. National Highway Traffic Safety Administration says it has not tallied the total number of deaths.
Biros said no claims have been rejected yet, although Feinberg is in the process of turning down a few because they don’t meet the requirements for compensation. Feinberg will issue reports each Monday on how many claims have been granted, she added.
Feinberg also has received 320 claims for compensation due to injuries. Of those, 12 have been deemed eligible for payments so far.
Of the injury claims, 58 were in the most serious category, seeking compensation for injuries resulting in loss of use of limbs, amputation, permanent brain damage or pervasive burns, the Feinberg statement said. Another 262 claims are for less-serious injuries that required hospital stays or outpatient medical treatment within 48 hours of the crash. Will GM be able to get out of this without it affecting their brand?
Ferrari announced today that Luca Cordero di Montezemolo will step down as chairman of Ferrari as of Oct. 13 and will be replaced by Fiat Chrysler CEO Sergio Marchionne, Fiat said in a statement today.
The departure of Montezemolo, 67, was widely expected after escalating clashes between the two executives over strategy and the role of Ferrari within the Fiat group.
Ferrari is a key component of Marchionne’s plans to expand in luxury cars to better compete with Volkswagen, which owns Lamborghini among its stable of high-end nameplates.
Montezemolo wanted to maintain Ferrari’s autonomous status and limit sales to about 7,000 cars a year to preserve the brand’s exclusive allure. That clashed with Marchionne’s goal of having Ferrari bolster a shift by Fiat into upscale cars as part of its merger with Chrysler Group.
Marchionne told reporters today that Ferrari will continue to limit annual sales but may gradually raise the cap to cater for rising demand. The cap could undergo “small changes” in some markets to prevent rivals getting an advantage by letting waiting lists get too long, he said. A Ferrari spokesman said the U.S. is one of the markets where demand for Ferrari cars is strong.
Ferrari will continue to provide engineering assistance to Fiat Group’s Maserati and Alfa Romeo brands to improve the quality of their cars. “Ferrari is a good school. Its importance within the group should not be underestimated,” Marchionne said.
Marchionne added that his new role as Ferrari chairman was not temporary and that bringing in a new chief executive for the brand was not on the agenda. He said there is no plan to fold Ferrari into the rest of Fiat Chrysler. “The success of Ferrari is mainly due to its unique brand,” he said.
Montezemolo’s Oct. 13 resignation date coincides with the day when Fiat plans to list Fiat Chrysler Automobiles (FCA) in New York after completing a merger with its U.S. business and cementing a shift of the Italian group from its home for the past 115 years.
“Ferrari will have an important role to play within the FCA Group in the upcoming flotation on Wall Street. This will open up a new and different phase, which I feel should be spearheaded by the CEO of the Group,” Montezemolo said in a statement.
Marchionne said that he and Montezemolo had discussed the future of Ferrari at length and that “our mutual desire to see Ferrari achieve its true potential on the [Formula One] track has led to misunderstandings, which became clearly visible over the last weekend.” Marchionne said on Sunday that the recent disappointing performance of Ferrari’s F1 team was “unacceptable” and that it was “absolutely non-negotiable” that Ferrari should win F1 races. He also took issue with comments from Montezemolo offering to continue running the brand for three more years, saying that “nobody is indispensable.”
Under Montezemolo’s tenure, Ferrari raced to the top of the F1 standings, increased revenues tenfold and tripled sales volumes as the Italian family business grew into one of the world’s most powerful brands. Will this move benefit the auto giant?
The Lincoln brand has been on a steady decline for quiet some time now, Ford needed to switch things up. Kumar Galhotra, Ford Motor Co.’s top engineer, was named president of the Lincoln brand today, a new position that reports directly to CEO Mark Fields, in another management change designed to jumpstart sales at the luxury brand.
Jim Farley, executive vice president of global sales, service and marketing, has directed Lincoln since 2012, and will continue to oversee Ford’s sales, service and marketing operations, but will also have a role in Lincoln’s marketing and product plans, Ford said today.
“Now is the right time to have a dedicated global leader for the brand,” Ford spokeswoman Susan Krusel said today.
She said it was Farley who recommended to Ford’s board of directors that Lincoln get a “totally dedicated leader.”
Galhotra, 48, has been Ford’s vice president of engineering since August 2013. He will oversee all Lincoln operations worldwide, including product development; marketing, sales and service; and all team members under the Lincoln brand.
The change is effective Sept. 1. Fields, who took the reins at Ford on July 1 after the retirement of Alan Mulally, said the move makes clear the company is “serious about Lincoln.”
“Now is the right time for the next chapter in accelerating Lincoln as a world-class luxury brand,” Fields said in a statement. “Kumar has more than 25 years of global product and business experience, including leading engineering for all of our Lincoln vehicles today. Being our dedicated senior Lincoln leader will serve our clients, employees and dealers extremely well going forward.” Will this change in leadership help rebuild the brand?