March 17th, 2011 by Darren Cottingham
Japan’s auto industry lays in tatters after the recent earthquake, tsunami and nuclear emergency disasters that have ravaged the country from last Friday.
Most major Japanese automakers have been effected with their production slowed or shut down completely by the disaster, including Toyota, Honda, Nissan, Mazda Mitsubishi and Subaru.
Toyota has shuttered all production in Japan until today to help conserve energy as the country deals with rolling blackouts due to power failures and the threat of a meltdown at its Fukushima nuclear power plant.
Honda has also ceased production at several plants, including in Suzuka where it makes several high-demand hybrid models.
The problems are also coming from suppliers who’s operations have been severely disrupted by the disaster and cannot deliver parts on time to automakers’ assembly plants. With such a complex global supply chain production in other countries is becoming affected as well.
Mazda and Subaru have had to extended their Japanese plant closures until this Sunday due to a parts shortage. That shortage also affects Subaru and Toyota production in the United States where some plants have had to suspend production due to a shortage of parts. Continue reading “Japan Auto Industry battling plant shut downs after disasters” »
March 11th, 2011 by Darren Cottingham
Toyota is celebrating a new milestone with global sales of it’s hybrid vehicles now reaching the three million mark.
Toyota offers 16 different hybrid models around the world in 80 different countries, and it’s about to introduce several new variations of the Prius. Toyota’s hybrid sales began in Japan in 1997 with the launch in August of the Coaster Hybrid EV. This was followed in December by Prius, with just 323 sales in that first month.
Global demand for Toyota’s hybrid vehicles is accelerating rapidly, with one million being sold in the past 18 months alone – more than one per minute.
By contrast, it took almost 10 years to sell the first one million Toyota hybrids and two years and three months to sell the second million – a milestone only reached in September 2010.
The global total of Toyota hybrid sales to the end of February was just over 3 million, which includes more than 2.1 million Prius and 210,000 Hybrid Camry.
Toyota New Zealand executive director Paul Carroll said responding to environmental issues whilst providing a range of fun to drive vehicles for customers is a priority for the company.
He said: “Customers are increasingly turning to hybrid vehicles in the face of rising fuel costs and a desire for more sustainable low cost motoring. As the leader in hybrid technology, Toyota is well placed to meet consumer needs both now and in the future.” Continue reading “Toyota’s global hybrid sales reach three million units” »
March 4th, 2011 by Darren Cottingham
Toyota has just pulled the covers of the second iteration of its FT-86 Concept car at the Geneva Motor Show and claims that it is now almost identical to the upcoming production version. Toyota also took the time to release new images and a couple of video clips to get performance car fans excited about the new RWD sports car set to go on sale next year.
The FT-86 II concept comes packing several styling differences over the original concept shown at the 2009 Tokyo Motor Show.
In terms of exterior looks, Toyota’s designers restyled the coupe’s profile by adding a new beltline that starts from the front wheel arch with a slightly odd air vent and finishes off on the tip of the rear window. Toyota also also split the front window and removed the blacked out A-pillar finish that was on the original concept. The rear wheel arches are now more pumped out and there are new side rocker panels.
She’s not particularly sexy at the front end with a new bumper with a larger center grille and droopy eyes that drop down into a thin strip of LED daytime running lights.
At the rear the changes continue, with Toyota revamping the FT-86’s rear end with new pushed out tail lamps and a more pronounced air diffuser flanked by large exhaust pipes on either side. Continue reading “Toyota displays reworked FT-86 II concept (+video)” »
February 22nd, 2011 by Darren Cottingham
Toyota’s Top to Bottom off-road team, including Marc Ellis at the wheel of a special expedition FJ Cruiser, set off on its epic journey from Cape Reinga to Bluff yesterday.
The trip is to help celebrate the 60th anniversary of the Toyota Land Cruiser, an iconic vehicle which has been in New Zealand for nearly six decades.
Television presenter Marc Ellis received a dawn blessing and haka from tangata whenua Ngati Kuri ahead of an expected 16-day challenge to get to the southernmost tip of the South Island using back country roads, farm trails and established tracks.
“It is a highly spiritual place for Ngati Kuri, and their words will no doubt cause us to reflect on the task ahead,” Marc Ellis said. “I love challenges, and there are few things I like better than being out and about in heartland New Zealand, encountering down-to-earth Kiwis who make this country special.”
If he wants to drive on tarseal at any point he has to earn credits by accepting further challenges from the public. An expected highlight will be to take the FJ Cruiser on a Goodbye Pork Pie-inspired train trip from Masterton to Wellington to avoid the city’s motorway network.
Nearly 1000 people around the country have answered Marc Ellis’ appeal for help, with route advice and offers of classic Kiwi hospitality. Each one has gone in the draw to win a 1970s FJ40 fully refurbished by Toyota’s own ‘Signature Class’ plant in Thames
He will meet locals and national legends alike on his journey, including netball icon Dame Lois Muir, multi-world champion shearer David Fagan, and rugby great ‘Grizz’ Wylie. His first passengers this morning were two Ngati Kuri kaumatua along Ninety Mile Beach.
The new FJ Cruiser’s design is unashamedly a tribute to the original FJ40. It has been specially fitted with high-tech navigation equipment, storage capacity, and even a fridge. Continue reading “Land Cruiser celebration journey begins at Cape Reinga” »
February 9th, 2011 by Darren Cottingham
While there is no doubt that the Toyota Prius is the world’s best-selling hybrid, in Japan there is a new sheriff in town — the Honda Jazz. The Prius has held out for the past 20 months as the top-selling automobile in Japan but for January of this year the Honda Jazz compact hatch took over the top spot.
Jazz sales in Japan surged to 14,873 units in the first month of this year, which is a 14 percent increase over the sales it achieved back in January 2010. In the January sales almost half of the 14,000-plus Japanese buyers went for the Jazz Hybrid.
Much of the hybrid Honda’s gas-electric appeal comes from its ¥1.59 million ($24,900 NZD) price tag, which is around $4,500 NZ less than the Honda Insight and it undercuts the Prius by a similar amount.
This is a clear sign that the market for hybrid compact hatchbacks is growing. Does the Honda Jazz have the endurance to out last the Prius in this battle. Only time will tell. Continue reading “Honda Jazz takes lead as Japan’s biggest selling car” »
February 8th, 2011 by Darren Cottingham
It’s no secret that Toyota has big plans to get into the growing market segment for hybrid powered small hatchbacks in Europe. But what has been just revealed is that a first look at Toyota’s efforts is on the cards for the upcoming Geneva Motor Show.
The Japanese manufacturer has just confirmed that it will unveil its Yaris HSD Concept at the March event. Toyota is keeping its card close to its chest for now on the Yaris concept so there’s little information on what kind of powertrain or fuel economy the car will achieve when it debuts. However, Toyota has said that the Yaris HSD Concept design will have some hybrid-specific features, so expect some serious Prius influence in the sheetmetal.
The B-segment remains one of the most popular market segments in Europe but it won’t be easy for Toyota’s hybrid offering to compete with high-efficiency diesel engines. The other barrier comes with price as hybrids command a price premium. So Toyota will need some smooth moves to make the hybrid Yaris a viable competitor in Europe. Continue reading “Toyota to take Yaris HSD hybrid concept to Geneva” »
February 4th, 2011 by Darren Cottingham
What’s in a name? Often there isn’t much to a name really, it’s a handle or a tagline used simply so we have a term for referring to something or someone. But there are other times when a name is a clue, referring to origin or even character or purpose. So when Toyota named its go-faster Corolla the ‘Blade Master-G’, it’s more than just a name, it’s a statement. Like a cross between a gangster rapper and a samurai warrior is the Blade a vehicle designed to entertain, to frighten, or to cut up anything who gets in its way? Is the tough name all talk or has this Japanese domestic market special got some bite to back its bark? Car and SUV got behind the wheel of the new to NZ, Toyota Blade to find out exactly what makes it tick.
From the outset the Blade is an extremely interesting prospect. Tailored mainly for the Japanese market it’s being imported in small numbers to NZ through Toyota’s successful Signature Range. Based on the Corolla hatch, the Blade is a genuine performance variant, something we haven’t had here for quite some time.
So will the Blade be noticed among the populous ranks of tenth-generation Corollas here in NZ? It would take a keen eye to spot the Blade, that said, it’s not entirely a wolf in sheep’s clothing. The proportions are the same as the standard Corolla but key differences lay in the Blade’s front and particularly rear lights, which are more striking, clear lens. The front bumper and grille is more bulky and aggressive than the standard Corolla and side skirting adds to the low, athletic demeanor. Finishing the look is unique Blade badging and 17-inch 5-spoke factory rims that almost fill out the guards. Overall, the Blade design is a mix of the familiar and the foreign, Toyota has some success in making the Corolla look sportier but it’s still unlikely to strike fear into other hot hatch owners. Continue reading “Toyota Blade Master-G 2007 Review” »
January 28th, 2011 by Darren Cottingham
“There can be only one” is the tagline from the cult classic Highlander movies of the 1980s and 1990s. Unfortunately for Toyota’s SUV which shares the same name, there are many more than just one in the market segment it occupies. In fact, the mid-size car-based SUV battleground is one of the hardest fought in the current automotive climate and it’s only getting fiercer. After a recent mid-life update the Toyota Highlander is going back to war, fresh-faced and with some new moves. But will it be enough to slash away rivals to become NZ’s SUV champion? Car and SUV mounted up with the Toyota Highlander to find out more.
The visual changes to this weekend warrior are fairly subtle. There’s a more defined nose with frowning headlights and a new chrome grille. At the rear restyled tail lamps flank replaced bumper trim. The rest of the Highlander’s sheetmetal remains unchanged. Our tested Limited model had some high-spec extras like rear privacy glass, front fog lamps, integrated roof rails and striking 19-inch five-spoke alloys. Overall, the upgraded Highlander is a sharp looker, it’s well proportioned with a safe, neutral design that avoids being either too rounded or too boxy.
Step inside the Highlander and you’re greeted by a spacious environment with three rows of seating ready to accommodate seven occupants. Even the third row will fit smaller adults comfortably and there are plenty of small storage areas and cupholders throughout the cabin. The centre row of seating is versatile and can be slid forward and back, it also splits 40:20:40 allowing the middle seat to be removed creating a luxury feel for six people. Luggage room is useful in five-seat mode with 580-litres on offer. There isn’t much cargo space left with all seven seats required but no less than other vehicles with three seating rows. Continue reading “Toyota Highlander 2011 Review” »