Monday, April 30, 2012

Toyota looking for high-volume Prius assembly in U.S. by 2015

Rumors that Toyota would some day build the Prius in the U.S. have bounced around for years, with a location in Mississippi often being cited as the most likely candidate. After that plan was officially scrapped in 2008, a new version of the same story returned in 2010 when a Toyota executive vice president said Mississippi Prius production could start up in 2016. Given the on-again, off-again history of the story, we weren't surprised when not much was officially said about the matter in the last two years. That changed today.

Koei Saga, senior managing officer in charge of drivetrain R&D at Toyota, has informed Automotive News that Toyota is now thinking of making the Prius in the U.S. by 2015 and wants to get hybrid drivetrain components – motors, inverters, batteries (likely lithium-ion packs) – from North American suppliers. The base fourth-gen Prius will probably still use nickel-metal hydride batteries, but the batteries made in the U.S. might be li-ion.

A 2015 timetable means it is likely that America would make the fourth-gen Prius model, which is due around that time. The reason this story keeps coming back is because it makes sense to build the Prius in the States. Sales are strong here and expected to grow, so extra production somewhere will almost certainly be needed to meet demand. Plus, a strong yen means that Prius vehicles built in America would likely come at a lower cost to Toyota.

Toyota currently makes the Camry hybrid in the U.S. at its plant in Georgetown, KY. The question as to whether the U.S. Prius would be made there, at Toyota's Mississippi plant, at the Tesla plant in Fremont, CA (formerly known as NUMMI) – where rumors about Toyota and the electric car automaker building electric cars like the RAV4 EV have also floated around in the past – or somewhere else completely will need to be answered at another time.

Thursday, April 26, 2012

Tweaks add to luster of popular Toyota Camry

No car in America outsells the Toyota Camry. So when the Japanese automaker turned its design attention toward a seventh generation of the high-volume midsize sedan, the results were more subtle than a creeping shadow.

The 2012 Camry has the same dimensions of length, width and wheelbase of its predecessor with new materials trimming 150 pounds from the overall weight. There is a slightly different profile with a more raked windshield and freshened taillights being the most noticeable alterations.

Inside, though, is another story. It’s hard not to be impressed by the new leather dashboard that has a layered effect with full-length flap and pronounced stitching. Very classy. The instrument panel is new, and a 6.1-inch touchscreen absorbs many functions.

All Camrys now have a 60/40 split/folding rear seat that enhances a 15.4 cubic foot trunk. Rear seat passengers also gain a bit more legroom from past models.

The base engine is a 178-horsepower, 2.5-liter 4-cylinder that teams with a 6-speed automatic transmission to offer quick-start response and adequate performance in all operations. For those desiring a V-6 engine, a 268-horsepower, 3.5-liter should do the trick.

Camrys come in L, LE, XLE and SE trims. Prices start at $21,955 for an L and extend to $29,845 for an XLE with a V-6 engine. The SE comes with a sport-tuned suspension. There is also a hybrid version that is treated separately.

I tested the XLE with a 4-cylinder engine that started at $24,725. With a power sunroof, power front seats, dual-zone automatic climate controls, heated power mirrors, fog lights, alloy wheels and 17-inch tires on top of the L and LE features, this was a well-equipped car. Three extensive option packages brought leather interior, navigation, push-button start, back-up camera and Toyota’s Entune multimedia system that links a smartphone to dining and entertainment options via the touchscreen.

Among the keys to the Toyota Camry’s success has 
been that it can be many things to many people.

While it may not be the perfect car, it’s proven good enough to be No. 1.

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

We Finally Sample Scion's Irresistible Lightweight At Home

Five months ago, we flew nearly 11 hours to spend a fleeting afternoon with the highly anticipated Scion FR-S at Japan's Sodegaura Forest Raceway, a track located just outside of Tokyo. Last week, we were in the air for less than an hour en route to Las Vegas to spend a much longer day with the sports coupe on our own turf.

The FR-S impressed us during our first drive in Japan, but the weather turned lousy and we didn't have a chance to drive it on public roads at legal speeds. This time, Scion scheduled plenty of seat time on public roads and on a racing circuit, while Mother Nature provided us with excellent weather.

Driving the coupe again in proper U.S. spec on home roads (and under much more favorable conditions) gave us better insight into the naturally aspirated four-seater. Not only did we learn a lot more about the engine, chassis and its driving dynamics, but we were able to finally interact with the FR-S as a daily driver.

It was, in effect, an interesting and informative second date.

Regular readers are unquestionably familiar with the Scion FR-S and its near-twin, the Subaru BRZ. The two sports coupes are the product of a joint program between Toyota Motor Corporation (owner of the Scion brand) and Fuji Heavy Industries (owner of the Subaru brand). The ball started rolling back in 2007 when Toyota was on a quest to pump some excitement into its product line. The automaker wanted to build a car that did not rely on wide sticky tires or all-wheel drive to improve handling. Subaru, a name synonymous with all-wheel drive, wasn't ready to toss its hat into the ring. Toyota pushed ahead anyway, building a lightweight FR (front-engine rear-wheel drive) proof-of-concept prototype that knocked Subaru's socks off. The two soon inked a deal.

Without getting too deeply into specifics, Toyota was tasked with program planning and styling, while Fuji was assigned development and manufacturing in Japan. As far as nomenclature goes, the coupe would be sold as the Toyota GT 86 in Asia and Europe, while the North American marketplace would brand it as the Scion FR-S and Subaru BRZ.

Nearly identical mechanically, except for some suspension tuning, each automaker tweaked the exterior fascias and configured the cabin for its own clientele. Subaru added automatic climate control and push-button start while Toyota, trying to keep focused on the performance mission, chose manual climate controls and a conventional keyed ignition for its FR-S. From 100 yards, most would be hard-pressed to tell the difference between the two. (We've written thousands of words about the technical aspects of each car. For an in-depth look at the machinery under the sheetmetal, read our man Ramsey's first drive of the Subaru BRZ.)

Red Rock Resort isn't on the famed Las Vegas Strip, it's several miles west at the base of the Spring Mountains. Scion chose to use the casino as our home base and the launching point for our trek to Spring Mountain Motorsports Ranch, located due west on the outskirts of Pahrump. Leaving our gambling money back in the room, we grabbed the keys to an FR-S with a six-speed manual transmission.

As it turns out, crows don't even fly directly to Pahrump, as the Spring Mountains are the home of Charleston Peak. At 11,916 feet, it is a big snow-covered obstacle that forced us south on Nevada State Route 159 through spectacular Red Rock Canyon before we picked up State Route 160 to Pahrump. (What this all meant to the Scion FR-S was that its naturally aspirated 2.0-liter flat-four had to lug us up and over Mountain Springs Summit, elevation 5,502 feet, before dumping us back down at the track on the other side.)

Subaru's boxer engine, fitted with Toyota's direct-injection fuel system, idled smoothly upon start. Leaving the hotel grounds, we left it in first gear just to hear the engine spin around the tachometer and take in the note coming from the exhaust. A mechanical sound tube, commonplace these days, has been engineered to pipe "good vibrations" into the cabin above 4,000 rpm. It worked alright, but most of the noise still emanated from the injectors and other unpleasant machinery under the hood. We wanted more exhaust note, but it simply wasn't there (Scion has already announced that it will offer an aftermarket TRD silencer shortly after the FR-S is launched).

Around town, the FR-S was fun and enjoyable to drive. Its short-shift manual was a delight to row, with three well-placed pedals and nearly perfect clutch operation. Gearing was good at low speeds and the Scion would chirp its way into second gear if driven with aggression. Shooting in and out of traffic was effortlessly brisk, but we'd never call it particularly quick. The suspension was firm, bouncing almost rigidly over tall speed bumps, but still very tolerable and not inappropriate for a sports coupe, after all.

On the highway, we found that the FR-S cruised effortlessly at 75 mph. There was moderate wind noise permeating the cabin at these velocities, yet almost no tire noise. Conversation with our fellow passenger was easy and at normal levels.

But things soon changed as we climbed slowly towards the mile-high summit through the mountain pass. As slower traffic blocked our way and we pushed harder on the accelerator to move around them, we noted that the Scion was starting to struggle to hold its speed. Passing other vehicles was soon out of the question, as acceleration was just too lethargic to take the risk. With a power rating of 200 horsepower and just 151 pound-feet of torque, what was fun around town had become unresponsive and sluggish when speed and altitude were added to the mix. (A basic rule is that a naturally aspirated engine loses about three percent of its power for every thousand feet of elevation climbed, so the flat-four was down about 30 crucial horsepower at the summit.)

About a half-hour later, we arrived at the track to find that Scion had set up three different "stations" for us to test its FR-S. The largest was a 1.5-mile loop on the west end of the main circuit. There was also a wet skidpad for drifting and an autocross-type course market with tightly spaced cones. We would try all three, as each would let us dig a bit further into the dynamics of the new sports coupe.

Recalling our remarkable experience outside Tokyo, when the FR-S effortlessly devoured the asphalt, we headed to the high-speed track first. And, as expected, the Scion FR-S took to the challenging racing circuit like a teenage boy to Call of Duty.

Our first stint was in an FR-S with the automatic transmission, an impressive six-speed gearbox that shares internals with the eight-speed in the Lexus IS F. With the transmission and VSC set in Sport mode, the powertrain blips the throttle on downshifts and holds the gears through the corners. Forget the hip paddle shifters, as its electronic brain proved better than ours. We tossed the Scion 6AT from corner to corner quite happily and smiled with delight as the intuitive transmission ran through its gears very effectively. Everything was perfectly fine until we tried to follow another talented driver in a 6MT.

The automatic transmission has taller gears than the manual, a trick to deliver better fuel economy (the 6AT is rated 25 city/34 highway and 28 combined, while the 6MT is rated 22 city/30 highway and 25 combined). However, the efficient gearing of the 6AT meant it didn't pull as strongly in third or fourth gear – a difference that was very noticeable when trying to follow a 6MT out of a fast corner, or when we jumped behind the wheel of a more spirited 6MT minutes later. In Japan, we theorized that the automatic gearbox may be quicker around a track than a standard gearbox. The new evidence, as observed in Pahrump, proves that we were wrong.

While the manual transmission was slightly quicker around the track, we found both models perfectly balanced and very easy to rotate. The engineers consider the 2,758-pound coupe's 53/47 percent weight distribution as perfect, and we would have to agree. The chassis is fabulously well balanced and very rigid. We lifted off the throttle gently mid-corner and the FR-S predictably rotated (oversteer) around its axis. The movement was stopped almost effortlessly with light throttle and some steering input. Only in the tightest corners, when we dove in far too hot, did understeer surface. As a near-perfect track car, this little coupe would make an excellent trainer at a racing school.

We found Scion's professional drifter Ken Gushi over at the skidpad. While his hot new FR-S (insanely modified to 600 horsepower for Formula Drift competition) wasn't in attendance after his impressive top-eight showing in Long Beach a couple weeks ago, he was there to instruct us on the art of drifting. After painlessly showing us how it is done, we climbed behind the wheel. With a wet skidpad beneath our wheels and the Scion running in first gear, we slowly negotiated a large figure-eight before yanking the parking brake to break the rear wheels loose. The next step, performed nearly instantaneously, involved jumping on the throttle to start the drift. After several failed attempts, each slightly more embarrassing than the one before it, we finally caught on and made a few lame drifting circles around the cones. Yet as pleased as we were with ourselves, our newbie talents pose no threat to Gushi – his job is safe.

Next we ventured over to the faux autocross, a short and very tight path between orange cones that took just over 30 seconds to run in its entirety. Both of the FR-S models were fitted with the automatic transmission, so the exercise was a focus on low to moderate speed handling, not shifting skill. Again, the coupe exhibited excellent balance and poise as long as we were smooth with both throttle and braking inputs. However, if we asked too much of the narrow front tires (e.g., turning the steering wheel while under hard braking) there was severe understeer, tire scrubbing and cones would end up under the front bumper. The solution, of course, was to always remain mindful of the weight transfer and brake in a straight line.

The trip to Las Vegas was well worth our time, as our lengthier follow-up meeting with the Scion FR-S was very educational. It reinforced many of our earlier good impressions from Japan, while flushing out some new (formerly unnoticed) minor weaknesses.

We remained stupefied by the coupe's excellent handling, perfect balance and tossable driving dynamics. Despite its rather narrow tires (215/45-17 on all four corners), lateral grip is strong and the stock brakes never exhibited fade. The driving position and bucket seats were comfortable for our six-foot, two-inch frame during our day-long journey and its sleek styling continued to turn heads.

Of course, there were a few nagging annoyances. First of all, the standard Pioneer audio system with a three-line OLED display is frustrating to use and the sound quality is only average (step up to the optional BeSpoke Premium Audio with a 5.8-inch TFT touchscreen display and save some headaches). Second, there are no grab handles anywhere above the beltline within the cabin, so your passengers will be clawing at the headliner while your dry cleaning sits on the floor. Third, the back seats are only fit for children – not only is legroom cramped, footroom under the seat is nearly nonexistent. Lastly, there is the power deficit at higher speeds. Proper gearing masks the issue up to about 65 mph, but then the naturally aspirated four-cylinder simply runs out of breath (a much-rumored upcoming turbocharger would make the FR-S just about perfect).

But overall, this was a very promising second date. While there are plenty of options out there, lightweight, well-balanced sports coupes priced at just $24,930 are the rare exception, not the rule in today's automotive environment. Add in excellent manners, physical attractiveness and a playful personality and we become more enamored with the new coupe each time we meet. There is no shame in saying that as far as relationships go, the 2013 Scion FR-S is very worthy of a long-term commitment.

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Toyota Announces Pricing for Limited Edition Tacoma Pickup TRD T/X Baja Series Package

Toyota Motor Sales (TMS), USA, Inc., announced prices today for the TRD T|X Baja Series Package. Inspired by Toyota’s Baja racing heritage, the truck reveals bold graphics with its name “Baja Series” and enhanced suspension, elevating the capability of Tacoma’s TRD Off-Road pickup to a new level of fun and function. The special limited edition package will be available on select Tacoma 4x4 pickup trucks. 
The TRD T|X Baja Series Package provides the customer with a great value and high level of capability that is backed by Toyota’s standard vehicle warranty. The TRD T|X Baja Series Package is offered at an MSRP of $5,015 less a $650 Factory Credit. There is an additional savings because the package the Baja Series is built on top of, TRD Off-Road Package for the Baja Series, is priced below the regular TRD Off-Road Package.

Toyota has a rich Baja racing heritage that dates back nearly three decades and includes numerous titles at the legendary Baja 500 and 1000. Toyota’s desert racing program has inspired the development of numerous TRD off-road focused products and packages over the years including the Tacoma PreRunner and TRD Off-Road packages for both Tacoma and Tundra. Last year, Tacoma’s Off-Road Package was enhanced with the launch of the TRD T|X and T|X Pro packages. TRD now takes Tacoma off-roading to the next level with the development of the T|X Baja Series. 

The T|X Baja Series will be available on both the Tacoma Access and Double Cab 4x4 models equipped with the TRD Off-Road Package. The Tacoma T|X Baja Series is equipped with a 4.0-liter V6 engine with either six-speed manual and five-speed automatic transmissions. In addition to an electronically-controlled locking rear differential, Active Traction Control (A-TRAC), Hill-Start Assist Control (HAC) and Downhill Assist Control (DAC) currently equipped on the TRD Off-Road package, the limited edition T|X Baja Series adds BF Goodrich T/A KO tires (LT265/70R16) and bead-lock style off-road wheels with an exclusive Gun-Metal Gray finish, TRD Cat-back Exhaust, increased front ride height of nearly two inches and unique Baja Series graphics. 

The front suspension has been upgraded to include Ø66mm piston Bilstein race shocks with TRD coil springs that feature a protective zinc plated body and a one inch increase in wheel travel. The rear suspension is equipped with Ø50mm piston Bilstein race shocks with a remote reservoir to increase shock oil capacity for greater heat dissipation and damping sensitivity. The rear shocks also include a zinc plated body and a 1.5-inch increase in wheel travel.
The T|X Baja Series will be part of a Tacoma line that was updated for 2012 with a restyled front end and a refreshed interior in all models. Exterior changes included a redesigned hood, grille, headlamps and front bumper, among other changes. Inside, Tacoma received a new center-instrument panel design with a revised gauge cluster, along with a new steering wheel. A redesigned center stack added new air conditioner/heater controls and power point locations. 
The 2012 Tacoma interior also received a new look with a black high-contrast center console, switch plate covers, dash and upper door trim, while the SR5 grade featured a new seat fabric design. Tacoma offers new heavy-duty all-weather flooring option for 2012 on Tacoma Access and Double Cab models equipped with a V6 engine. The more specialized TRD Sport and Off-Road packages also feature new water-resistant fabric protection seats.
All Tacoma TRD T|X Baja Series models will be built exclusively at Toyota Motor Manufacturing, Texas (TMMTX) in San Antonio and will reach dealer showrooms in May 2012. Prices for the Baja Series Tacoma do not include delivery, processing and handling fees (DPH), which are $810. The DPH fee for vehicles distributed by Southeast Toyota (SET) and Gulf States Toyota (GST) may vary.

Monday, April 23, 2012

Why buy Toyota Certified?

Why should you choose a Toyota Certified Vehicle
Each Sloane Toyota Certified Used Vehicle comes with a 3-month/3,000-mile comprehensive warranty from date of certified purchase. This warranty covers any repair or replacement of components which fail under normal use due to a defect in materials or workmanship. In addition, the following additional features are included:
Certified Warranty
Each Sloane Toyota Certified Used Vehicle is also backed by a 7-year/100,000-mile Limited Powertrain Warranty (from original date of first use when purchased as new). We also add a 7-year/100,000 mile 24-hour Roadside Assistance Plan (from original date of first use when purchased as new).
160 Point Inspection
At Sloane Toyota, only the best of the best are chosen to be Toyota Certified Used Vehicles. When we choose a vehicle for Toyota Certification, we have to do a little investigative work. Not only do we put each vehicle through an exhaustive 160 Point Quality Assurance Inspection, but we also run a CARFAX Vehicle History Report to ensure it's worthy of the Toyota Certification process. Then, each vehicle is reconditioned to Toyota 's exacting standards by factory-trained Toyota Technicians. We want the vehicles to look and feel as new as possible and we know you do too. We believe this helps maintain the value, as well as creates pride in ownership of a Sloane Toyota Certified Used Vehicle.

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Check out April's specials on the 2012 Toyota Tacoma

Right now at Sloane Toyota of Glenside, we've got tons of great offers on all of our vehicles. That includes $1,000 in customer bonus cash when you buy a new 2012 Toyota Tacoma! Whatever it is that you're looking for, we've got it. So come in soon and take a test drive in whatever catches your eye! Give us a call at 215-885-5400 or visit our website HERE.

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Professor beats traffic ticket with physics paper

We've never been falsely accused of a traffic violation, having earned every last second of our time before a judge, but when it does happen to us, we'll certainly want to brush up on our physics. Dmitiri Krioukov, a physicist with the University of California, recently pleaded his way out of a fine for rolling through a stop sign using the power of mathematics. Krioukov worked up a four-page physics paper underscoring the differences between linear and angular motion to prove that he could have theoretically come to a complete stop and resumed traveling in the time it took another vehicle to pass between him and the citing officer.

The idea is that perception of speed can be altered depending on one's viewpoint. Since the officer viewed Krioukov from the side and the physicist supposedly came to a complete stop very quickly before accelerating again just as fast, it appeared as if he never stopped at all. Or at least that was the notion. Whether or not the judge believed the professor didn't matter so much as the fact that Krioukov managed to shed some doubt on the accusation. He was declared innocent and spared the $400 fine.

But the story doesn't end there. The physicist left a flaw in his proof, and has invited everyone to see if they can figure it out. From our layman's point of view, it appears Krioukov's Toyota Yaris managed to fall from 22 mph to 0 and vault back up to 22 in the span of three seconds. Must be quite the machine

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Kiichiro Toyoda Revolutionized Carmaking With Toyota

Kiichiro Toyoda faced a challenge.

His dad, Sakichi, was an inventor with 119 patents. Many called him the father of the Japanese industrial revolution.

How did Kiichiro top that? With cars.

During visits to America in 1921 and 1929, he noticed how popular autos were and saw a future of such machines made in Japan.

In 1930, he talked his father into funding what would become Toyota Motor Corp. (TM)

Kiichiro stepped down as president in 1950, but the foundation he laid would help it become the global powerhouse it is today with $221 billion in annual revenue — and a stock that rocked 10,725% from 1971 to 2000.

Kiichiro (1894-1952) was a sickly child growing up in a farming village 100 miles outside of Tokyo and didn't seem likely to become a world-class entrepreneur like his father. Sakichi was most famous for inventing an automatic spinning and weaving loom.

While some saw Kiichiro as too timid to undertake a major task, his father disagreed. He simply told his son that in order to inherit the family business, he had "to tackle a great project at least once in life that would benefit society.""That put Kiichiro under a lot of pressure to contribute something great," Jeffrey Liker, professor of engineering at the University of Michigan and author of "The Toyota Way," told IBD.

College First

Sakichi had little formal education and wanted Kiichiro to jump from high school to one of the factories making looms for spinning. Instead, the boy in 1914 entered what is today Tohoku University.

Beyond class, he toured machine plants and worked part time at some. He concluded that instruments to test for quality control in Japan were inadequate.

His father then sent Kiichiro to the prestigious Tokyo Imperial University, where he majored in mechanical engineering with a focus on engine technology, graduating in 1920. By that time, at 26, "he was capable of running a modern business and was a person who possessed the ambition and confidence to size up with accuracy Japan's industrial future," wrote Kazuo Wada and Tsunehiko Yui in "Courage and Change: The Life of Kiichiro Toyoda."

He started working in a loom factory. The next year his father sent him to America and Europe to visit manufacturing facilities.

Although he noticed the popularity of cars, he observed that English factory floors were not organized to get products finished fast. Nor were workers incentivized to be more productive.

He did see that at Platt Bros., a loom maker, employees were paid properly to work efficiently, and the assembly process was well organized.

Returning to Japan, Kiichiro applied all he had learned to the loom business and in 1925 registered a patent for the Type G Automatic Loom. It was so advanced, Platt Bros. offered to buy world licensing rights. "It was unheard of at the time for Japanese technology to be so much better that the British would buy it," said Liker.

On his way to England to negotiate with Platt in 1929, Kiichiro toured carmakers in America and began to think they might have a better future than looms.

This was reinforced when he arrived at Platt. He signed an agreement for $150,000 — worth $1.9 million today — that let Platt distribute his loom worldwide, except to Japan, China and the U.S.

Meanwhile, he was shocked by how the company had deteriorated because of lack of demand.

According to Wada's "Kiichiro Toyoda and the Birth of the Japanese Automobile Industry," he persuaded his father to set up a room in a loom machine shop in May 1930 that would try to create a car. A few months later, Sakichi died.

What to do about cars? Toyoda's managers at the loom business were uneasy risking so much capital on a new industry. So Kiichiro made all the executives read Henry Ford's autobiography and showed how the venture could work. Soon his team was on board.

"Kiichiro was excited about producing cars because he saw it as a way to revolutionize Japanese society, although he faced many skeptics," said George Cook, professor of marketing at the University of Rochester. "He was ingenious about taking apart American cars and then reverse-engineering them, eventually deciding to use a Japanese engine, Ford and Chevy components, and a Chrysler body. What he introduced was of similar quality, but much less expensive."

He had employees read car trade magazines. He wrote instructions for every job down to the clerks.

One day as he walked through the plant, he saw a worker staring at a grinding machine, wondering why it stopped. Kiichiro rolled up his sleeves, put his hands in an oil pan, came up with two handfuls of sludge and asked: "How can you expect to do your job without getting your hands dirty?"

Get It Right

Kiichiro adopted one of his father's manufacturing practices as a foundation for Toyota operations: "jidoka," relying on workers and intelligent machines to eliminate errors. "This included stopping a production line if there were mistakes, even though it would be costly, an important part of the company's continuous learning," said Cook.

Liker recalled that as the U.S. auto companies became aware of this, "the level of quality consciousness made our heads spin."

Kiichiro created another principle that would sweep the globe: just-in-time assembly. With 3,000 car parts, everything had to be organized for maximum efficiency.

Properly managed, this could reduce the need for costly inventory.

Poorly executed, parts would arrive late, resulting in disaster.

According to "Toyota: Fifty Years in Motion" by his cousin Eiji Toyoda, who would become company president in 1967, Kiichiro's explanation of how this "kanban system" would work was in a thick manual: "To get people to accept it, we had to rid them entirely of their notions of the old way of doing things. It was, in a sense, a brainwashing operation, describing in meticulous detail the flow production system we were to set up."

Cook says this became central to eliminating waste and became the Toyota Lean Production System many industries adopted.

Another distinguishing characteristic was self-reliance. Jim Press, former president of Toyota Motor Sales, USA, explained: "Toyota's orientation from the very beginning was that before they could build a car, they needed to perfect new revolutionary processes to build a mold, to build an engine, to go back to that level. And that's what makes the company different — going back to the essence."

The Car Field

Said Cook: "Kiichiro had a strong vision and pushed the envelope with discipline, focus and teamwork, taking the long view of getting to company goals."

In 1935, an A1 passenger car trial model rolled out.

The following year the automaking division split off and changed its name to Toyota, meaning abundant rice field, a term associated with good luck.

In 1938, the first plant was constructed of what was to be called Toyota City near Tokyo. It would be scheduled for Allied bombs in the summer of 1945, but World War II ended in time to save it.

The war made it tough for Toyota to make cars. In its aftermath, material shortages and economic conditions caused Kiichiro to change the business model.

In addition to making a limited number of cars, Toyota did repair work on American military engines and started manufacturing ceramics and prefabricated housing.

Rampant inflation reduced the spending power of workers, and management proposed laying off 1,600 workers in 1950. The workforce went on strike and demanded raises while the company faced bankruptcy. Kiichiro took responsibility and resigned in April, even though it turned out the company broke even that year.

Two years later, with Japan's economy on the rise, the company asked him to return. Just before he took over, he died of a heart attack.

"He succeeded because he was such an innovative thinker who was tenacious when facing seemingly impossible odds," said Cook.

Said Liker: "The lessons of Kiichiro are visible in the Toyota Way, and he is often referred to today at the company when discussing its foundational management values."

Thursday, April 5, 2012

Toyota UK says Top Gear boys to go on another Hilux adventure

The Toyota Hilux can attribute a fair portion of the its celebrity to the Top Gear crew's exuberant doting. After attempting to destroy the truck via a smattering of inhumane methods, traversing the frozen wastes of  the Arctic and braving the fires of Icelandic volcanoes, the show has given the globe-conquering Toyota more love than nearly any other model.

It looks as if that won't slow down anytime soon. According to Toyota, Jeremy Clarkson, James May and Richard Hammond will once again take to the wheel of a specially-prepared Hilux for an all new challenge.

Just what will that task entail? Toyota is keeping its mouth shut at the moment, and Top Gear isn't typically one for spilling secrets early. Judging by the photos, however, it appears as if the vehicle will need to withstand substantial water crossings and support the trio for at least one night in the wild. Color us excited. Hit the jump for some of the vehicle's finer moments on the show.


Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Toyota College Grad Video Contest!

Know what's better than getting a new car? Getting a new car for FREE! Toyota can help you do just that right now in their College Grad Video Contest. Help Toyota figure out the best way to get the word out about their $1,000 college grad rebate, and you could win a brand new 2012 Toyota Corolla-S. Sound like a sweet deal? Then head to right now and get to work!

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Toyota pickups set records on Antarctic trek


But could they conquer America?

A fleet of 10 specially-outfitted Toyota Hilux pickup trucks recently completed a year-year long trip to Antarctica, setting several records in the process.

The compact pickups are not currently sold in the United States, but are among the most popular around the world and known for their durability. They were outfitted for the assignment by Iceland-based Arctic Trucks, who are also responsible for preparing a Hilux that in 2007 was the first motor vehicle to drive to the magnetic North Pole.

To handle the extreme cold of Antarctica, as low as -50 degrees Celsius during the expedition, the 3.0-liter turbodiesel engines of the pickups were converted to run on jet fuel, which will not freeze even at such temperatures.

While the transmissions of the trucks remained stock, crawler axles were added along with revised suspensions and bodywork to accommodate extra large tires running at just 2-3 psi for improved traction. Several of the trucks were converted into 6x6 vehicles for extra-heavy hauling. The Hilux gets about 5 mpg in Antarctica in this configuration, which is 5 to 8 times more fuel efficient than the tracked vehicles typically used there, representing a significant savings where a barrel of fuel can cost $10,000, according to Toyota.

The trucks took part in a variety of activities on the continent, including acting as support vehicles for an Extreme World Races cross country ski competition and helping to set up a remote fuel depot for use by the permanent research facilities there.

Over the course of their adventures, the trucks set a record for the longest expedition in the history of polar exploration, covering over 44,000 miles combined, while three of the Hilux travelled nearly 6,000 miles each during a double transcontinental crossing that included a stop at the South Pole, each one setting a new distance mark for individual vehicles.

The Hilux was sold in the United States for many years under a variety of different names, before being replaced by the mid-size Tacoma in 1995.

Courtesy of Fox News