Tag Archive | "Toyota"

KBB Announces 2017 Best Buy Awards


IRVINE, Calif. — Kelley Blue Book today announced the winners of its 2017 Kelley Blue Book Best Buy Awards. The 2017 Honda Civic was named the Overall Best Buy of 2017, however, 11 other vehicles also took top honors for their respective categories.

“Kelley Blue Book editors went to the unprecedented choice of honoring the Honda Civic as the Overall Best Buy for the second year in a row because of the Civic’s unsurpassed all-around value,” said Jack R. Nerad, executive editorial director and executive market analyst for KBB.com. “It turns in very high marks in objective measures like resale value and cost to own, yet it also is a supremely satisfying car to drive and live with every day.”

Overall, the Honda brand took home four awards, with its new Civic also winning in the small car category. The Honda Accord and Pilot also won in the mid-size car and mid-size SUV/crossover categories, respectively.

The Chevrolet brand received the second-most Best Buy awards, with its Impala winning in the full-size car category and the automaker’s Tahoe winning in the full-size SUV/crossover category.

The 2017 Audi A4 was named the Best Buy in the luxury car segment, while the 2017 Porsche 718 Boxster took top honors in the sports/performance car segment. The best electric/hybrid was the 2017 Toyota Prius Prime.

In the small SUV/ crossover category, the 2017 Kia Sportage emerged as KBB’s Best Buy. In the luxury SUV/ crossover category, the 2017 Mercedes-Benz GLC was honored with the top award. And for the third year in a row, Ford’s F-150 received KBB’s Best Buy award.

Lastly, the 2017 Chrysler Pacifica received the best buy award for the minivan category.

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Toyota Ends Scion Experiment


TORRANCE, Calif. — Toyota’s Scion experiment had ended, with the automaker announcing on Wednesday that the youth-geared brand will be transitioned back into the Toyota brand. The announcement comes almost 13 years after the automaker established Scion as a separate brand to explore new products and processes that attract youth customers.

The automaker said model-year 2017 Scion vehicle will be rebadged as Toyota beginning this August, with the FR-S sports car, iA sedan and iM five-door hatchback expected to become part of the Toyota family. The tC sports coupe, however, will have a final release series edition and end production in August. The C-HR, which debuted at the Los Angeles Auto Show, will also become part of the Toyota lineup.

“This isn’t a step backward for Scion; it’s a leap forward for Toyota. Scion has allowed us to fast-track ideas that would have been challenging to test through the Toyota network,” said Jim Lentz, founding vice president of Scion and now CEO of Toyota Motor North America. “I was there when we established Scion and our goal was to make Toyota and our dealers stronger by learning how to better attract and engage young customers. I’m very proud because that’s exactly what we have accomplished.”

Service and repairs for Scion customers will remain unaffected by the change, officials said, as customers will continue visiting Toyota dealership service departments.

More than a million Scion cars have been sold since the brand was established in June 2003, with the automaker noting that 70% of those purchases were made by customers new to Toyota. Additionally, 50% of those purchases were made by buyers under the age of 35.

The automaker claimed in its press releasing announcing the decision that the average age of the Scion buyer was 36, with the average age of the tC sports coupe buyer coming in at 29 — the lowest average age buyer in the industry.

As for the 22 dedicate Scion team members who handle sales, marketing, distribution, strategy, and product and accessory planning, the automaker said they will have the opportunity to take on jobs at Toyota Motor Sales in Torrance, Calif. Scion regional representatives will assume different responsibilities in their respective Toyota sales offices.

“Scion has had some amazing products over the year and our current vehicles are packed with premium features at value prices,” said Andrew Gilleland, an executive with Scion. “It’s been a great run and I’m proud that the spirit of Scion will live on through the knowledge and products soon to be available through the Toyota network.”

The Scion brand gave birth to several products, sales and marketing process, including the brand’s no-haggle Pure Pricing and Pure Process Plus online car-buying process. Personalization was also big with the brand, with buyers offered an array of accessories from which to choose.

The brand also served as a training ground for Toyota execs. Aside from Lentz, Mark Templin, managing officer for Toyota Motor Corp. and executive vice president of Lexus International, Jack Hollis, group vice president of Toyota marketing, and Doug Murtha, group vice president of corporate strategy and planning for Toyota Motor North America, held roles with Scion.

The brand’s best year in terms of sales was 2006, when Scion sold 173,034 units. Sales, however, never topped 100,000 units after that. In 2015, the Scion brand sold 56,167 units.

“We appreciate our 1,004 Scion dealers and the support they’ve given the brand,” said Bob Carter, Toyota senior vice president of automotive operations. “We believe our dealers have gained valuable insights and have received a strong return on their investment. During this time of transition, we will work closely with them to support this process and help communicate this change to customers.”

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Exclusive: U.S., Major Automakers to Announce Safety Accord Friday


The U.S. government and a group of global automakers are set to unveil a voluntary agreement at the Detroit auto show on Friday aimed at improving auto industry safety and spurring culture changes, according to company and government officials.

The accord could set the framework for further discussions on safety reforms and mark a new era of cooperation between automakers and regulators after a record-setting year of safety fines, recalls and investigations into malfunctioning vehicles made by General Motors Co, Fiat Chrysler Automobiles NV, Honda Motor Co and others.

But it stops short of what many safety advocates have urged Congress and the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) to adopt: new binding legal requirements to toughen safety rules. And automakers may be able to raise the voluntary agreement to argue against future proposed regulations, saying the accord makes legally binding rules unnecessary.

 The agreement, under discussion for several weeks, would also attempt to improve vehicle cyber security and the use of early warning data to detect potential defects that might lead to safety problems or large-scale recalls, sources said. It would also create new government-industry task forces to work to improve auto safety.

Despite the voluntary agreement, NHTSA Administrator Mark Rosekind said the agency will not hesitate to fine automakers that fail to follow the rules and will not give up its aggressive enforcement of auto safety rules.

Automakers recalled a record-setting 63.95 million vehicles in the United States in 2014, incurring large fines from NHTSA.

Companies in the talks leading up to the agreement include GM, Toyota Motor Corp, Ford Motor Co, Daimler AG, Fiat Chrysler, BMW AG, Honda, Nissan Motor Co and Hyundai Motor Co.

The agreement is to be announced at the auto show in the U.S. auto capital of Detroit by U.S. Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx and top auto executives, sources told Reuters.

In a letter last week to the NHTSA seen by Reuters, the group of 16 automakers said industry support of an agreement “reaffirms our shared commitment to safety, and signals to the public the areas in which government and industry intend to collaborate to further improve automotive safety.”

Automakers met with the NHTSA in Chicago on Dec. 16 and since then exchanged proposed “Principles for Working Collaboratively to Enhance Motor Vehicle and Traffic Safety.”

In recent days, NHTSA and automakers have continued to propose revisions, including discussions about government-industry working groups, according to auto industry officials who spoke to Reuters at the Detroit show.

The talks come after NHTSA came under intense criticism in 2014 for failing to detect ignition switch defects in 2.6 million older GM cars linked to at least 124 deaths. Since then, NHTSA has been more aggressive in handing out fines and demanding outside monitors oversee automaker safety compliance.

NHTSA Administrator Mark Rosekind said on Monday in an interview on the sidelines of the Detroit show that the agency cannot make vehicles safe simply by imposing new regulations and handing down fines. He said he hoped a deal would be announced Friday.

“We’re going to have to find new tools – that means new collaborations, new partnerships,” Rosekind said.

But the voluntary agreement will not be enforceable – and is not as tough as what some safety advocates have called for. With only a year remaining in the Obama administration, there is a shrinking window to complete new legally binding auto safety rules.

Sean Kane, president of Massachusetts-based Safety Research & Strategies Inc and an auto safety advocate, praised NHTSA “for having a dialogue” with automakers and prodding them to do more on safety “and be strong on enforcement.”

Kane raised concerns about a voluntary agreement that is not legally enforceable. “It also eliminates input from outside parties” like safety advocates and consumers, Kane said, “and that is a little troubling.”

Foxx met with top executives from major automakers on Dec. 1 in Washington. A spokeswoman for Foxx said there have since then been “productive discussions with auto manufacturers toward agreement on steps to bolster safety.”

Foxx “is hopeful that they will soon result in concrete commitments that lead to significant safety improvements that will strengthen public confidence,” said his spokeswoman.

Fiat Chrysler CEO Sergio Marchionne said on Monday he agreed with the NHTSA that the auto industry needs more collaboration with regulators. He said he wanted the industry to “get to a stage where safety is no longer a competitive edge used by one automaker against another.”

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December Auto Sales Soar 9% in Record Year


Automakers posted a solid 9% sales gain in December, an exclamation point that sealed 2015 as the biggest sales year ever for the industry, reported USA Today.

All told, automakers sold 17.47 million new vehicles for the year, Autodata reported, besting the previous record set in 2000 by 68,138 vehicles. Low gas prices, cheap credit, low unemployment, soaring consumer confidence and warm weather fueled a rush into showrooms in December.

“The U.S. economy continues to expand, and the most important factors that drive demand for new vehicles are in place, so we expect to see a second consecutive year of record industry sales in 2016,” said Mustafa Mohatarem, GM’s chief economist, in a statement.

Still, sales success for individual automakers presented a mixed bag. Detroit’s Big 3 fared well for December and the year. General Motors had a 5.7% sales increase in December, Ford Motor saw an 8.3% boost and Fiat Chrysler sales rose 12.6%, according to Autodata. Tesla Motors doubled sales during the month and sold 23,650 of its luxury electric cars in the U.S. for the year, but came in at the low end of its delivery guidance on worldwide deliveries.

Among Asian makers, Toyota saw a 10.3% increase for the month, Honda was at 9.9% and Nissan at 8.7%. But for the full year, they came in lower, with Toyota posting a 5.3% increase compared to the industry average of 5.7%

One laggard was German automaker Volkswagen Group, which still cannot sell diesel vehicles amid an emissions scandal, down 3.4% overall. The automaker’s Volkswagen brand sales fell 9.1% in December and 4.8% for the year. The company’s Audi luxury brand, which has felt a smaller impact from the scandal, achieved a 6% gain in December and 11.1% for the year. Another loser for the month was Hyundai, saddled with a car-heavy lineup during the SUV surge, down 1.5%.

Consumers continued their exodus from less-lucrative cars into crossovers, sport-utility vehicles and pickups amid low gasoline prices.

At 13.9% market share, the small SUV segment is now the largest category of vehicles in the U.S., trailed by small cars and midsize cars at 13.7% apiece, according to Kelley Blue Book.

“There’s no end in sight to those trends,” AutoTrader.com analyst Michelle Krebs said. “You’re going to hear the same broken record next year.”

Crossovers like the Toyota RAV4, the Nissan Rogue and the Jeep Renegade delivered a robust showing in December.

“The segment is in demand with Baby Boomers and Millennials both looking for increased utility. We think this is a long-term trend,” Ford sales analyst Erich Merkle said on a conference call.

Unlike 2000, when automakers were piling on discounts to sell vehicles despite a strong economy, the industry is financially fit and has spurned steep incentives. Average incentives rose 3.9% in December, compared with a year earlier, to $3,063 per vehicle, according to TrueCar.

Toyota division general manager Bill Fay told reporters it was a “standout year,” though he projects sales to “start to level off a bit” in 2016.

Even as crossovers gain, the industry’s stalwart full-size pickup trucks have also flourished, in addition to new midsize pickups.

The Ford F-Series pickup, the most popular vehicle in the U.S., rose 14.6% to 85,211 units in December. Sales were up 3.5% for the year to 780,354.

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New-Vehicle Registrations Return to Prerecession Levels


SCHAUMBURG, Ill. — New-vehicle registration volumes for light-duty vehicles reached the highest point in nine years, with more than 17 million new vehicles registered within the United States between Nov. 1, 2014 and Oct. 31, 2015, according to Experian Automotive.

The highest number of new registration volumes on record was 17.4 million in 2006, while the lowest point was during the Great Recession, when volumes fell to 10.2 million in 2009.

“It’s encouraging to see new registrations return to prerecession levels, with lower interest and higher employment rates driving vehicle demand,” said Brad Smith, Experian’s director of automotive market statistics. “While I’m sure the auto industry would like to continue this growth annually, it is important to continually monitor data trends and economic indicators to identify shifts in demand and adjust business strategies accordingly.”

Experian’s data also revealed a shift in what consumers are buying, with crossover utility vehicles now accounting for nearly 24% of the market this year — up more than 100% from 2006.

“The crossover utility vehicle segment, with popular entries like the Ford Escape, the Honda CR-V, the Chevrolet Equinox and the Toyota RAV4, provides consumers with a nice balance between utilitarian need and fuel economy,” Smith added. “All-wheel drive versions and roof racks provide the recreational sportsman with the fit and function needed for weekend getaways, while the rear hatch makes these vehicles a viable grocery-getter as well.”

The Top Five brands by market share during the reporting period were Ford, Chevrolet, Toyota, Honda and Nissan. They accounted for 54% of the 17 million new-vehicle registrations. By model, the Ford F-150 led the way with a 2.9% share of the market, followed closely by the Chevrolet Silverado 1500 and Toyota Camry with shares of 2.6% and 2.5%, respectively. The Toyota Corolla, Honda CR-V and Honda Accord tied for fourth with shares of 2.1%.

States leading the way in new-vehicle registrations were California (11.8% share), Texas (9.2%), Florida (7.6%), New York (6%), Illinois (4%).

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Takata Air Bag Recall Expands to Record 34 Million Vehicles


As part of an agreement with Takata, federal regulators expanded the recall of vehicles equipped with the company’s air bags to 33.8 million in the U.S., making it the largest safety recall in the nation’s history, reports Detroit Free Press.

The move essentially doubles the number of vehicles being recalled to replace potentially lethal air bags made by the Japanese supplier. At least six people have died and more than 100 have been injured from shards of metal from exploding air bags.

Takata, for its part, officially acknowledged the defects for the first time on Tuesday, even though 17 million vehicles with its air bags already have been recalled.

Mark Rosekind, recently appointed administrator of the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, said no one knows how long it could take to fix the vehicles, but “it could take some years. … We intend to make sure at the end of this process there is a safe airbag in every vehicle.”

The NHTSA recall now involves 11 automakers, including the Detroit Three, most affecting 2002 through 2008 model years. Takata is partly owned by Honda, which has the highest percentage of recalled vehicles. The total number could change as automakers sift through the specs of all of their models to determine which ones contain any of the four defective inflators, which activate the air bags in a collision.

Many consumers will have to drive their vehicles for a long time before the parts are available to fix them, with the industry unable to manufacture replacement bags fast enough. They could also be waiting months for the notification their vehicle is subject to recall because automakers must prioritize vehicles at most risk based on their age and geographic location

The announcement is the second example in as many days of Rosekind cracking down on automakers to address safety on U.S. roads. On Monday, Rosekind announced he has scheduled a hearing in July for Fiat Chrysler Automobiles to explain their slow response in completing repairs in 20 different recalls.

NHTSA has been pushing for Takata to expand its air bag recall. Automakers had recalled about 17 million vehicles, many of them from Honda. The latest move largely makes this a national recall of vehicles from 11 automakers with vehicles that potentially have faulty inflators in the driver or passenger-side air bag.

“Up until now Takata has refused to acknowledge that their airbags are defective, that changes today,” said U.S. Treasury Secretary Anthony Foxx. “Takata has agreed to declare their air bag inflators are defective.”

Takata Chairman Shigehisa Takada, in a statement, said, “We are pleased to have reached this agreement with NHTSA, which presents a clear path forward to advancing safety and restoring the trust of automakers and the driving public.”

The supplier has also agreed to enter into a consent order with NHTSA to supply all related documents and information about the defective airbags and pledged full cooperation going forward.

In return, NHTSA has suspended more than $1 million in accumulated fines — $14,000 per day since February — for not responding to all NHTSA’s inquiries. The agency has not ruled out more fines in the future and there could be further civil penalties.

Initially the exploding air bags were considered a problem only in hot and humid climates but the recall has been expanded nationally as Takata and affected automakers continue to try to identify the root cause of the problem so they can fix it.

The recall has also expanded to cover both driver and passenger side air bags in more vehicles and regions.

Automakers with affected vehicles include Honda, Toyota, Ford, BMW, Fiat Chrysler Automobiles, General Motors, Mazda, Mitsubishi, Nissan, Subaru and the newly added Daimler Trucks. The automakers formed a coalition and hired independent engineering firm Orbital ATK to try to find the cause of the exploding air bags. Their investigation is in addition to those being conducted by NHTSA and Takata in an industry-wide effort to find the reason for the defect to make sure it is fixed properly.

NHTSA also is opening its own testing program to focus on ensuring the remedy is completely safe. Rosekind said while the replacement air bags are safer than the ones they replace, he cannot guarantee their long-term safety at this time.

“We are doing our best to keep focused on the investigation,” said former NHTSA Administrator David Kelly who was hired to oversee the investigation by the automakers. Efforts to determine the root cause are still in the early stages of testing, he said.

Safety officials warn consumers to keep checking their vehicle VIN number on the www.safercar.gov website because even some of the vehicles previously fixed – or excluded in the past — could be back on the recall list in the future.

Consumer who receive recall notices should call their dealer immediately.

“Folks shouldn’t have to drive around wondering if their airbag is going to explode in their face or if their car is going to be on another recall list,” said U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson, D-Fla., the top Democrat on the Senate Commerce Committee and a key figure in a congressional probe into the defective airbags. “We’ve seen the recall list double now to 30 million cars. Let’s hope Takata’s admissions today tells us the whole story.”

Rich Newsome, an attorney representing seven victims of faulty Takata air bags, including Corey Burdick, a Florida man disfigured and blinded in one eye by shrapnel from an exploding air bag in May, called it a victory for consumer protection.

But, he said, “today’s expanded recall is already too little, too late for people injured and their families. Hopefully today’s news will push the agenda for recall reform to the forefront and result in legislation that will help NHTSA identify these kinds of defects before regular families with defective cars are needlessly harmed in the future.”

Automakers say they will continue to work with NHTSA and share test results. Honda said many of the recalls announced Monday already were included in previous safety campaigns and the automaker is “reviewing the information released (Monday) to determine what new actions may be required.”

Honda owners can check their recall status at www.recalls.honda.com or call 800-999-1009. Acura owners should go to www.recalls.acura.com or call 800-382-2238 and press option 4.

“A recall of this scope illustrates the potential for massive automaker expense and consumer inconvenience when a common, mass-produced part is defective,” said Karl Brauer, analyst with Kelley Blue Book.

“While this is the largest consumer recall in history it’s likely we’ll see future vehicle recalls of similar, if not larger, size as the automotive industry becomes more globalized.” Brauer said.

Takata boosted production to 450,000 replacement kits per month in March, up from 350,000. Other suppliers are also ramping up capacity to meet the demand the recall has created as the industry works to address the problem collectively.

Autoliv, another global supplier of airbags, said Tuesday it could make more airbag inflators than it has already promised to the industry.

In January, Autoliv committed to providing several automakers with as many as 25 million airbag inflators and could begin delivering them later this year.

“Our focus has really been to help the industry and the customers in this situation and clearly if we would be asked to supply more we would work to do that as rapidly as we could,” said Thomas Jonsson, spokesman for Autoliv.

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