News: Toyota records $7.7b loss – biggest ever

toyota logo

Last quarter’s financial news has been fairly brutal for almost all carmakers, but the biggest blow has just come from one of the world’s largest automotive powerhouses. Toyota has posted a last-quarter loss of $7.7 billion USD; the worst loss in the company’s 71-year history and worse than even GM’s recently-reported loss of $6 billion USD. Toyota now expects to lose $5.5 billion USD for the year ending March 2010, surpassing the $4.4 billion USD it lost in the last financial year.

The reasons behind Toyota’s downturn in fortune is a familiar story. Global sales were down 21.9% last year, with the most stark losses occurring in North America and Europe. The Yen also made strengthened against the U.S. Dollar, further hurting the Japanese automaker. While sales took a big dive during the last fiscal year, Toyota expects to lose another one million unit sales globally in the coming year.

Even with Toyota’s tremendous struggles, analysts expect it to emerge from the automotive downturn with far less permanent damage than its domestic competitors. Years of multi-billion dollar profits have fortified Toyota’s balance sheet, giving the Japanese automaker good security even in tough times.

To help weather the downturn, Toyota has already laid off thousands of temporary workers worldwide, and it has also offered buyouts to American workers. The company also postponed construction indefinitely on its Mississippi assembly plant. It’s also continued to reduce manufacturing costs, and will likely accelerate those efforts in the coming year.

Last quarter's financial news has been fairly brutal for almost al ...

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News: BMW considering various vehicles for Project i program

BMW Project i fq

Back in the summer of 2007, BMW and the University of Bath in the UK put their combined heads together and designed a vehicle called the Compact Low Emission Vehicle for Urban Transportation, or Clever for short. Using just three wheels and an engine that was designed to run on compressed natural gas, the Clever concept emitted only half the carbon dioxide of normal economy cars.

BMW is looking at revisiting this design for a future production model under its new Project i program, which has the goal of finding new ways to create sustainable models for our transportation needs. The Clever would be just one vehicle in a range that consists of multiple two-, three- and four-wheeled vehicles.

For now, BMW will need to look to it’s motorcycle division to locate a suitable set of powerplants for Project i.

Back in the summer of 2007, BMW and the University of Bath in the ...

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News: Corvette paying its rent for now

Corvette ZR1 2009 fq

According to Fritz Henderson, the newly-appointed CEO of General Motors, the future holds exciting things for Chevrolet’s iconic sportscar. Corvette fans were concerned late last year when GM admitted that development of the next-gen C7 Corvette platform was put on “indefinite hold, with no official or set timetable.”

In a bit of good news for Corvette fans, Henderson stated that the “Corvette pays its rent,” meaning that it’s a money-making operation for The General. Now, the longer the automaker can flog off the current C6 architecture, the more profitable it will ultimately be.

No word yet on when the new Covette platform will be revealed, but Henderson is quick to point out that the current C6 chassis is still an excellent unit to build off and one that’s fully competitive with the best sportscars from around the world.

According to Fritz Henderson, the newly-appointed CEO of General M ...

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News: China interested in Lotus Exige Tri-Fuel

Lotus Exige Tri-fuel s

Lotus got busy showing off its latest toy the Exige 270E Tri-Fuel at the Shanghai Auto Show this year. It was an interesting concept and after seeing the car, Youngman Auto, a Chinese company now wants to partner with Lotus to make the most powerful Exige ever a production reality. With a supercharged 270 horse four-cylinder capable of running on methanol, bioethanol and gas, the Tri-Fuel rockets to 100kph in just 3.8 seconds. Unfortunately, it’s currently just a concept. Still, if anything can push a car into production, the thirst of billions of Chinese drivers can do it. In 2007, China became both the world’s largest producer and consumer of methanol fuel. Last year, nearly one billion gallons of methanol were blended with gasoline in China, and many retail pumps offer various blends of methanol to consumers

Lotus got busy showing off its latest toy the Exige 270E Tri-Fuel ...

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News: Porsche and Volkswagen finally ready to unite

Porsche VW logo

Automotive News Europe has just reported that Porsche and Volkswagen have finally cleared the way for combining their brands into a single operation. The new carmaking group would have 10 brands in the fold, though the “independence of all brands and explicitly also of Porsche shall be ensured.” VW will be bring its nine brands, while the Porsche brand itself would be added by Porsche Automobil Holding SE, the separate holding company owned by members of the Porsche and Piech families.

This news is the latest step in Porsche’s lengthy atempt to take a true controlling interest in Volkswagen. The German sportscar maker has reportedly already bought a 51% stake in Volkswagen to date, but that’s not enough of a majority in Germany to rule supreme. Porsche intends to raise its stake to 75% when economic conditions allow, but Lower Saxony, Volkswagen’s home German state legally has the right to veto any sweeping changes. Porsche are set to push on regardless.

Automotive News Europe has just reported that Porsche and Volkswag ...

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News: Retro Gullwing being produced with V8 power

Retro gullwing fq

The Gullwing is making a comeback, the alternative door configuration has always been popular on concept cars and custom rods, but now the comeback is for real. The Gullwing is now being built in Germany, it looks original but benefits from modern powertrain technology.

Gullwing GmbH is the company responsible for this heritage vehicle. They’re also the company building the latest AC Cobra, complete with gullwing doors of course. The design, as you can plainly see, is faithful to the original, but Gullwing has made some updates to the 1950’s engineering. The 3-litre, straight six, 215-horsepower powerplant of the original has been replaced with Mercedes’ latest 405-hp 5.5-litre V8 mated to a 7-speed automatic gearbox. Gullwing has also redesigned the chassis, suspension and brakes to deal with the extra power, and added an array of modern features from ABS to air-conditioning, capping off the authentic interior with a retro-styled radio/sat-nav unit.

Fully equipped, a “new” Gullwing comes with a €165k price tag, but you’ll have to wait 10 to 18 months for delivery, put down €50k in advance and hope they haven’t received more than 30 orders this year, because that is production capacity at the Gullwing factory in Dresden, Germany. There is talk of a manual six-cylinder version and of course a roadster.

The Gullwing is making a comeback, the alternative door configurat ...

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News: Mini to create rival to Golf GTI

Mini Cooper

Recent rumors circulating suggest that Mini has started work on a direct VW Golf GTI rival that could be called the Mini GTI. According to a car magazine the Mini GTI will offer the same front-wheel-drive performance, but use altered exterior styling. The Mini GTI will also have a John Cooper Works version and will be built in the same manufacturing plant as the forthcoming Mini Crossover. The Mini GTI is expected to output around 180 hp and its JCW version around 220 hp. The Mini GTI is expected to have a distinct, and probably more aggressive, design with a rear spoiler and upgraded interior goodies such as sport bucket seats and a racing steering wheel.

The Mini GTI’s price is expected to be lower than the Golf’s and will probably come to market sometime in 2012.

Recent rumors circulating suggest that Mini has started work on a ...

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News: Audi ceases plans for R8 V12 TDI

Audi R8 V12 TDI

When Audi’s R8 V12 TDI was unveiled at the 2008 Detroit Motor Show, the automotive world was excited by the idea of a fuel-efficient, torquey and potent diesel vehicle that could rival Lamborghinis and Ferraris in performance. Now sadly new reports say the global industry downturn has claimed the diesel-burning R8 as its latest victim.

At 5.5L and 373kW/1001Nm of torque, the R8 TDI’s V12 engine was a modern and inspiring unit. Based around the company’s dominating Le Mans diesel engine design, the V12 TDI was expected to be a sure hit with high-performance aficionados and diesel lovers. When a second concept was revealed at the 2008 Geneva Motor Show, many thought the car was bound for production.

But the high-tech V12 engine and the research and development that goes into it equate to mammoth costs – costs that are just too high for a road-going car to warrant. Audi is quick to point out that just because the market isn’t currently at a level that could make the car a successful business proposition doesn’t mean it won’t be at some point in the future. And it won’t be letting its diesel racing technology languish in the mean time, so while the R8 V12 TDI may be dead, it could still be part of Audi’s plans for the future.

When Audi's R8 V12 TDI was unveiled at the 2008 Detroit Motor Show ...

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