31st August 2011

[updated 3.8.11] Toyota’s next US market blockbuster



If like me, you lived outside Europe in the early 1980s, you’ll remember just what a revolution the first Camry was for Toyota. It might have taken the company five years to produce a product that was as good as the original Honda Accord – easily the best front-wheel drive sedan to be launched by a Japanese manufacturer – but it was well worth the wait. The leap over the old beam-axle Corona range was so great that it was scarcely believable that this front-wheel drive family car was made by Toyota.

How time flies. Over the last almost thirty years, the Camry has likely become the most profitable model for the company’s North American operations. The car has had a tough time of in recent memory, considering the negative publicity over a supposed throttle cable defect and then the dramatic slowing of production following the tragedy in Japan.

So for Toyota’s US operations, 23rd August cannot come soon enough. That will be the day when the new 050A-series model, a rebodying of the current car, is unveiled to the press. Already, the web is littered with embargo-busting images of the model and plants in the US and Australia are preparing to start cranking out the new car as well as its hybrid derivative from the fourth quarter. Other facilities in China, Malaysia, Indonesia, Thailand, the Philippines and Russia will follow.

The launch timing for this car could well be perfect, even allowing for the presumption that the US market’s limping recovery will remain just that. Crucially, the model will hit the market ahead of every one of the scheduled replacements for its current big-selling rivals, most of which won’t be launched until 2012: the Chevrolet Malibu, Ford Fusion, Honda Accord and Nissan Altima.

The 2012MY VW Passat won’t be a threat to the Camry for a year or so, as buyers adjust to discovering that that car is no longer a high-priced model with a cosy interior, though that won’t be the case with Hyundai’s Sonata, which only seems to get stronger as the months go by. And the Sonata’s twin, the Kia Optima, will be US-built from next month, giving the Koreans their strongest ever rivals for the Camry and its long-standing domination of this segment.

*The numbers out on 2nd August showed that the Camry regained its title of the US’ number one best selling car, though last month’s champion, the Chevrolet Cruze, was not too far behind. In a few short weeks, the first reviews of the 2012MY Camry will be out. If they indicate that the car is the new class leader, the battle to wrest leadership of this segment will suddenly be the hottest it’s ever been. Roll on the fourth quarter.

 

 

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31st August 2011

Manufacturing Troubles Remain a Drag on Recovery, Trade & Jobs


via The Seattle Times

by Jon Talton

Top of the News: The Institute for Supply Management’s manufacturing index seems consistent with recovery, coming in at 53.6 for November; any number above 50 signifies expansion in the sector. Unfortunately, the reading sagged from 55.7 the month before, tripping up what economists had hoped would be a steady climb out of recession.

A deeper look shows that the index provides no relief for the biggest immediate problem facing Americans, unemployment. Only six of 18 manufacturing industries reported growth in employment. Only 11.7 million Americans worked manufacturing as of October. That compares with 17.3 million in October 1999.

Not only do manufacturing jobs pay better than their counterparts in service industries, they tend to add real value to economic activity (as opposed to selling mortgage swindles). They are also twined with our trade issues. Even fewer manufacturing jobs are now in industries that export, a key part of our huge manufacturing trade deficit.

Unfortunately, this phenomenon was happening even before the Great Recession. A report from the Economic Policy Institute shows that manufacturing employment between 1965 and 2000 never dipped below 16.5 million. This even as manufacturing shrank as a share of the economy (take out Boeing and it would be much smaller). This changed as imports surged after China joined the WTO and other Asian factory centers upped their game. By 2004, the number was lower than any time since 1950.

“It is often claimed that declines in manufacturing employment stem entirely from productivity growth,” according to EPI economist L. Josh Bivens. “However, rapid productivity growth is the norm, not the exception, in manufacturing. What is new about the manufacturing job crisis of the last four years is the sharp downturn in the ratio of domestic production to demand.”

Indeed, American steelmakers are shrinking yet again.

The Back Story: The official unemployment rate including discouraged workers and part-timers seeking full-time work is 17.5 percent. But Shadow Government Statistics, a provocative and reliable site, argues even this underestimates the problem. Try…22 percent.

Complete Article



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31st August 2011

Land Rover Reveals Defender Concept Ahead of 2011 Frankfurt Auto Show

Just the Facts:

  • The DC100 provides clues about the new Defender, due in 2015.
  • It was designed to stimulate debate about the model’s future direction.
  • This will be the most significant update since the 1948 original.
  • The new Defender will be coming to the U.S.


GAYDON, England — Land Rover has released two photos of the Defender concept it will debut at the 2011 Frankfurt Auto Show in September. The two-door DC100 offers a clue as to how the replacement for the iconic Defender will look when it goes on sale in 2015. “This concept is designed to stimulate debate,” a Land Rover spokesperson told us. “We are committed to a Defender replacement, but this concept will help us to understand what direction it must take.”

One of the key questions the company must answer is whether the new Defender is a simple off-road tool for the developing world in the spirit of the original Land Rover, or whether it’s a fashion-conscious toy for the affluent. The recent decision to distinguish the more utilitarian Land Rover family from the more opulent Range Rover lineup could be a clue to the Defender’s likely path. According to Global Brand Director John Edwards, “the new Defender will be true to its heritage, while meeting the requirements of a changing global market.”

This will be the most significant Defender update since the original Land Rover was launched in 1948. The two-door, which has a short wheelbase and an exaggerated “wheel at each corner” stance, is being billed as a true concept in contrast to the sister Jaguar C-X16, which is a production concept. DC100 is an idea, not the finished article. Gerry McGovern, director of design, reckons the concept is, “the beginning of a four-year journey to design a relevant Defender for the 21st century.”

Land Rover has promised to reveal more details of the concept’s drivetrain in Frankfurt, but it has confirmed that this will be a global car. For the first time since 1997, the Defender will be offered in the U.S. as Land Rover targets a new customer base. The company sold 20,185 Defenders last year, a figure it hopes to increase significantly with the launch of the new model.

Inside Line says: Let’s hope the DC100 points the way to a proper off-roader that’s true to the spirit of the original Land Rover.

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31st August 2011

Ford Evos Concept at the 2011 Frankfurt Motor Show

  • Looks like: Ford’s take on the Aston Martin Rapide
  • Defining characteristics: High-mounted grille, tiny headlights
  • Ridiculous features: Four gull-wing doors, information screens galore inside
  • Chances of being mass-produced: Not in this form, but expect design cues to grace future Fords

Ford likens the four-door Evos concept to the Iosis concept introduced at the 2005 Frankfurt Motor Show. You’ll notice the Iosis’ influence on Ford cars you see today, like the new Focus and Fiesta. Near Detroit last week, chief designer J Mays (no relation to this writer) said to expect similar influence from the Evos.

“We got a lot of mileage out of Iosis as the precursor to what became Kinetic Design,” Mays said, referring to Ford’s current design ethos. “What we’re looking for is a design DNA that will take us through the next five years.”


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30th August 2011

Ford EVOS Concept: Definitely Not A Lincoln

But… shouldn’t it be? Oh, Ford. You come up with something sexy and desirable, and you can’t help but slap a blue oval on it, can you? Ford Design Boss J Mays explains the choice, saying

We wanted the Ford Evos Concept to give a clear message about where Ford design is heading – shaping vehicles that are fun to drive, have a strong premium visual appeal, and above all, are stunningly beautiful. Our exciting new design DNA has been developed and refined by an intensive effort by all of our talented global design team. As a team, we wanted to create a more technical design vocabulary to help communicate the smart technology that is now core to the Ford brand. In addition, we worked particularly hard on meeting the high-expectations of a new generation of buyers – a group of consumers who have grown up surrounded by beautiful, premium design work on even the most affordable products.

Which leaves Lincoln… where?

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30th August 2011

Toyota smashes Nurburgring electric car record with time of 7:47.79

For quite some time now, Toyota has been chugging away at an electric racer, preparing it for what they hoped would be a record-breaking lap around the famous Nurburgring. After over a month of anxiously awaiting the specific date for the attempt, we now hear that the Toyota EV Racer has finished with a record time of 7:47.79 – smashing the previous record of 9:01.338 established by the Peugeot EX1 Concept back in May 2011. With this time, the Toyota EV Racer created by Toyota Motorsports GmbH (TMG) can brag of being 30 seconds shy of times achieved by some great sports cars, like the Nissan GT-R, Chevrolet Corvette ZR1, and Dodge Viper ACR.

The Toyota EV Racer is powered by a pair of electric motors sourced from Evo Electric that deliver a total of 375 HP and 590 pound-feet of torque. Mated to a single speed gearbox, the EV Racer will sprint from 0 to 60 mph in just 3.9 seconds and will hit a top speed of 161 mph. All this while also getting a range of 124 miles.

Toyota Motorsports GmbH (TMG) Communications Officer, Alastair Moffitt, told MotorAuthority that much of the electric drivetrain powering Toyota’s new prototype is based on knowledge gained in the development of the Kinectic Energy Recovery System (KERS) used in its original F1 cars. According to Moffitt, the project is a valuable chance to test high-performance electric powertrains in a real motorsport environment, giving TMG’s engineer’s a chance to learn more about cooling, battery performance, motor performance, durability, etc.

This is only the beginning folks. While Bugatti focuses on SSC and Koenigsegg as competitors for the world’s fastest car, other automakers will be sliding in line to create bigger and faster electric vehicles. When these two worlds collide is anyone’s guess.

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