Blog Archives

Drive Happy Project on target

Toyota’s new way of selling vehicles, the Drive Happy Project, is on target despite its relatively quiet start in April, with 1362 sales recorded to date since launch. 

“We expected a significant dip in sales for April,” said Toyota New Zealand’s CEO Alistair Davis. “Transitioning to a new way of doing business is not going to happen overnight, or even in one month. We are in this for the long term.”

Davis said introducing the Drive Happy programme in April was partially by design.

“We had a good March, with Toyota stores contributing to this as they increased their demonstrator fleets as part of the Drive Happy Project.”

The first month of the new financial year – April – is also slower for the fleet, rental and lease business, said Mr Davis. “This has allowed us to fine-tune some of our system changes without the pressure of the usual larger sales volumes.”

He said customers had to get used to the idea of a Toyota Driveaway Price (TDP) – considerably lower than the previous recommended retail prices – with no haggling.

“People can still buy a new Toyota at their local store, with or without doing online research,” said Mr Davis.

However, most customers are making use of the improved online features with Toyota confirming a 10 per cent increase in visitors to their website on the previous month, with 15% of those making use of the online car builder.

The Toyota Driveaway Price includes delivery costs, number plates, registration, a full tank of fuel, floor mats, 1000kms of road user charges on diesel vehicles and a seven-day money back policy if the customer is not happy with the vehicle.

“Customers have more options to get the exact model in the colour they want from the large pool of vehicles held in Auckland, Wellington or Christchurch,” said Mr Davis.

Toyota New Zealand expected and planned for slower sales with the introduction of Drive Happy, said Mr Davis.

“There’s a transition period for us as our network of stores and customers to get used to the improvements we’re making. We’re excited about the future and the opportunities these changes have opened up for us.”

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Toyota to get cars ‘talking’

2017 Toyota Corolla

Toyota has announced they will start putting short-range communications chips in US vehicles in the next three years, in order to make cars safer by getting them to “talk” with one another.

The American car manufacturer will put the chips in Toyota and Lexus models in the US starting in 2021, said Andrew Coetzee, group vice president of product planning for North America. The technology will enable cars to send data on their location and speed to surrounding vehicles and roadside infrastructure to curb crashes.

Toyota is going public with the campaign in order to get the rest of the auto industry and industry regulators to embrace the technology.

It’s also headed for a clash with phone companies that would rather see carmakers embrace 5G cellular networks to accomplish the same task. 

“The dedicated short-range communications systems Toyota will start using, known as DSRC, send information back and forth to one another several times a second and can alert drivers to potential collisions before they happen,” said Bloomberg.  A broad coalition of auto companies, including Toyota and General Motors, urged U.S. Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao in November to support a “talking cars” mandate for all new passenger vehicles by 2023.

 “We need to make a technology choice when there’s no regulatory requirement in place,” John Kenney said to Bloomberg, director of networking research at the Toyota InfoTechnology Center in Mountain View, California. “What we’re doing today is speaking up and saying ‘We will deploy DSRC technology and we encourage other automakers to do the same.’”

When the Transportation Department released a proposal for the requirement in December 2016, regulators under the Obama administration estimated the technology could prevent or mitigate 80 percent of vehicle crashes not influenced by driver impairment.

Coetzee said he’s not convinced automakers should share the spectrum band with cable or tech companies.

“We need to make sure we’re got super, super reliable and very quick transmission speeds,” Coetzee said to Bloomberg. “More testing will be needed to show you can do this” while sharing airwaves.

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Toyota suspends autonomous driving tests

The first fatality involving an autonomous Uber car and a pedestrian has sparked discussions over the future of Toyota’s self-driving vehicle testing on public roads.

While Toyota executives emphasised they didn’t know the particulars of the crash, they quickly announced that it was suspending testing of its self-driving vehicle system on California and Michigan streets.

Jim Lentz, Toyota’s Plano-based North American CEO, recently told the Dallas Morning News that it wasn’t doubts about the technology that spurred the auto giant’s move.

“We were concerned that our drivers have been upset,” he said, speaking from the New York Auto Show. “We’ll go back into testing as soon as our drivers are ready to get back behind the wheel.”

Lentz said that even the test cars in complete self-driving mode typically have two drivers and two steering wheels.

Lentz said that although Toyota doesn’t know about the specifics about the Arizona crash, the questions it raises are interesting.

While he doesn’t expect that the crash will slow down the automaker’s timeline, but it has forced drivers and regulators to think about their appetite for risk.

How quickly autonomous cars will be rolled out for the general public, Lentz said, will be “based primarily on two things.” Neither of them have anything to do with the technology.

“One is cost,” he said. “Today, autonomous vehicle systems are $100,000 to $150,000—those costs have to come down before you have widespread use.”

“The second is how many high-profile accidents like the one in Arizona lawmakers are willing to stomach to save more lives in the long run.”

“My thinking on policy is, we believe first and foremost that autonomous cars are there to save lives—not to put Uber drives out of business,” Lentz said. “Autonomy could technically save 35,000 lives a year, but it won’t be perfect and people will lose their lives.”

“Even if you save a net, as a government policy are you willing to accept other similar accidents?” he said. “If the answer is, ‘No,’ I think that’s going to slow down the adoption of these (higher level) autonomous vehicles.”

Still, Lentz said cars are evolving to be closer to autonomous, even if they don’t fully drive themselves.

“Today we have emergency braking and a host of sensors, which are a precursor to autonomy,” he said. “That next step, in our case, is this guardian mode, where you will be in control of your car but they will prohibit you from making a big mistake—stop you from turning down a one-way street.”

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Toyota backs local car sharing technology

The MindKin team – Source: MindKin

Toyota Financial Services has announced a strategic investment in locally developed car sharing technology as part of its move to become a mobility company and expand its business beyond financing vehicles.

Toyota Financial Services Managing Director, Brent Knight, says the investment in Wellington based
Mindkin is a small part of a worldwide mobility evolution.

“Globally, rapid urbanisation, pollution and congestion have prompted a wave of innovation in
transport and new mobility services,” he says.

“Space on roads and in carparks is becoming scarce and expensive, and current inefficient transport
options carry high costs.”

Mr Knight says car sharing is one of a number of new mobility services being pursued around the
world to allow for more convenient, efficient and flexible travel. Others include ride hailing, ride
sharing, carpooling, car rental and shared autonomous vehicles.

Mindkin’s core technology product, Hourfleet, allows more efficient sharing of pool cars with a
simplified booking service and vehicle access.

The Mindkin platform gives users of the service the ability to unlock and start vehicles simply using
their mobile phones. User’s access to vehicles will be determined based on the vehicle they have
booked, and their booking time. It’s expected this functionality will make the process of lending,
renting cars safer, more secure and more convenient.

Mr Knight says these types of innovative mobility services could reduce car ownership for people
who do not use a private vehicle as their main mode of transport.

“By partnering with existing businesses innovating in the mobility space, like Mindkin, we are able
to start market testing earlier, while combining knowledge and experience in the automotive space.
It also allows for Toyota to be in a position to respond to changing trends and customer expectations.”

Opportunities stemming from the rise of new mobility services include partnerships with new mobility and technology firms, investments in mobility start-ups, research and development on mobility solutions, fleet sales to mobility providers and new vehicle financing models.

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The next Corolla Hatch revealed

The next Corolla hatch, displaying a bolder, more dynamic exterior design, has been revealed at the Geneva Motor Show.  

“The new Corolla hatch will have a fresh and exciting makeover with a heavily European inspired design,” says Neeraj Lala, Toyota New Zealand’s General Manager of Product and New Vehicle Sales.

“It’s going to be a brand-new ground-up build, on Toyota’s new global platform, with a more gratifying driving experience.”

Longer, wider and featuring a longer wheelbase than the current car, the new Corolla hatch has a lower stance and more appealing proportions.

The TNGA platform features a lower centre of gravity, multi-link rear suspension and a more rigid body shell that contributes to better handling and stability without compromising ride and comfort.

A choice of hybrid electric and petrol powertrains are provided for the new model. This includes the latest version of Toyota’s 1.8-litre hybrid powertrain.

Its fuel efficiency will rival the hybrid halo model, Prius, while fulfilling all the requirements customers have come to expect from a Toyota hybrid powertrain – silent, intuitive, responsive and self-sufficient.

Corolla hatch’s overall length has been increased by 40mm, all of which has been absorbed within the longer wheelbase. The roof’s peak has been lowered 25mm, while the cowl height is a significant 47mm lower than the current model.


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Mercedes-Benz – the world’s most valuable brand

Mercedes Benz is now worth $43.9 billion, 24 per cent more than in the previous year, according to the 2018 Brand Finance Report.  

Second place went to Toyota, who dropped 6 per cent compared to the previous year, to $43.7 billion, while the third spot went to BMW, whose brand value is estimated at $41.8 billion. Volkswagen, who suffered a severe drop in brand value following the ‘Dieselgate’ scandal, is on the rebound, occupying fourth place ($25,014 billion).

The biggest increase in value belongs to Aston Martin, who managed to increase by 268 per cent compared to 2017. The brand reached $3.6 billion and is now the fastest-growing brand in the automotive sector. Overall, Aston Martin ranked 24th in the report.

The fast-growing Chinese car market managed some serious leaps in terms of brand value, with six Asian brands managing to make their way into the top 50; Haval, Geely, BYD, Baojun, Foton and JAC Motors.

According to the report, brand value is established after compiling data from several key indicators. These indicators include marketing investment, stakeholder equity, business performance and royalty rate. Brand revenue is also taken into consideration.

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Mazda and Toyota establish new company

Mazda Motor Corporation and Toyota Motor Corporation have established a new joint-venture company “Mazda Toyota Manufacturing, U.S.A.” that will produce vehicles in Huntsville, Alabama starting in 2021.

The new plant will have the capacity to produce 150,000 units of Mazda’s crossover model that will be newly introduced to the North American market and 150,000 units of the Toyota Corolla.

The facility is expected to create up to 4,000 jobs. Toyota and Mazda are investing $1.6 billion towards this project with equal funding contributions.

“We hope to make a plant that will hold a special place in the heart of the local community for many, many years,” said Mazda’s Executive Officer Masashi Aihara, who will serve as President.

“The new plant, which will be Toyota’s 11th manufacturing facility in the U.S., not only represents our continuous commitment in this country, but also is a key factor in improving our competitiveness of manufacturing in the U.S.,” said Hironori Kagohashi, executive general manager of Toyota.

“We are committed to realising a highly competitive plant and producing vehicles with the best quality for customers by combining Toyota and Mazda’s manufacturing expertise and leveraging the joint venture’s synergies. Based on this competitiveness, we will make every effort to becoming a best-in-town plant that will be loved by our hometown,” he added.

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Toyota launches a $4b automated car company

Toyota Motor Corp. revealed plans to form a new company, “Toyota Research Institute-Advanced Development” (TRI-AD) that will accelerate its efforts in advanced development for automated driving.

James Kuffner – CEO and representative director

To enable the new efforts at TRI-AD, Toyota Motor Corporation, Aisin Seiki Co., and Denso Corporation have concluded a memorandum of understanding on joint development of fully-integrated, production-quality software for automated driving.

The company is set to launch this month and will be headquartered in Toyota’s native Tokyo with operations around the world. Together, TMC, Aisin and Denso plan to invest more than NZ$4 billion in TRI-AD.

It’s expected to employ about 1,000 workers and will be headed by James Kuffner, who currently serves as the chief technology officer of Toyota’s U.S. research division. 

The primary focus of the company is primarily on developing the software components necessary for autonomous vehicles.

“Building production-quality software is a critical success factor for Toyota’s automated driving program,” said Dr. Kuffner.

“This company’s mission is to accelerate software development in a more effective and disruptive way, by augmenting the Toyota Group’s capability through the hiring of world-class software engineers. We will recruit globally, and I am thrilled to lead this effort.”

However, even with NZ$4 billion entirely for self-driving vehicle development, Toyota can expect to face an uphill battle with players such as Uber Technologies Inc. and Alphabet (Google) Inc.’s Waymo are already testing autonomous vehicles on public roads.

To catch up, Toyota may have to partner with one of the several startups that offer autonomous driving software for car manufacturers. 


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Toyota readies cheaper EV motors

Toyota’s EV charger

Toyota Motors is readying electric motors that use much as 50 per cent less in rare-earth metals amid concern of a supply crunch as automakers race to expand their electric vehicle (EV) line-ups.

Toyota has developed a magnet for their motor design that halves the use of the rare-earth metal neodymium and eliminates the use of terbium and dysprosium, replacing them with metals which cost 20 times less than neodymium.

Toyota believes that demand for neodymium will exceed supply from 2025.

Motors with the magnets can be used in any electrified powertrain, the company said.

Rare-earth metals, along with elements such as lithium and cobalt, are seeing soaring demand from a growing EV market, propelled mainly by increasingly stringent emissions restrictions worldwide.

China, which is home to the world’s biggest auto market and the leader in EV sales, supplies more than 80 percent of rare-earth metals globally.

The potential for volatility in the market for the minerals was exposed last year when a clampdown on illegal Chinese miners caused neodymium prices to surge by almost a third in one month.

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Toyota’s new execs see industry crisis

President Akio Toyoda

Toyota’s newly promoted global executives, all from different backgrounds and companies, share President Akio Toyoda’s view that an industry crisis is looming.

Back in November, Toyota announced its plans to change its executive line-up and revise its organisational structure to boost business innovation in  January 2018.

A once-in-a-century change is occurring,” said Satoshi Ogiso, a former hybrid-vehicle engineer who left Toyota to run brake supplier Advics Co., and has returned as president of Toyota’s commercial vehicle business. “We have to overcome a time of major change.”

Even Toyota’s newly appointed chief communications officer, Masahiro Yamaoka, couldn’t help fretting aloud about Toyota’s challenges.

“In all aspects, we really can’t wait,” he said. “This is a survival or death situation.”

The crisis mentality is being cultured from the top by President Akio Toyoda, who is looking far beyond the next few quarters. Toyota is expecting a record net income for the current fiscal year.

Toyoda says his top priority is keeping the company nimble and responsive to the major change rising over the industry, including the spectre of self-driving cars.

Akihiro Fukutome, the new head of Toyota Financial Services Co. said his mission came from Toyoda – “He told me to blow a new wind from outside and quicken the pace of change.”

On the finance front, Fukutome said new mobility businesses, such as ride-sharing, are forcing Toyota to devise new revenue streams, combining finance and technology. Referring to the buzzword for innovative financial technologies, he added, “ ’Fintech’ is the word that is often used. I would like to do something new.”

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Toyota sets tough sales goal

Toyota aims to sell 1.4 million vehicles in China in 2018, nearly 9 per cent more than it sold last year.

The sales goal announced by Japan’s biggest automaker on Friday comes at a time when the world’s biggest auto market is experiencing a slowdown in overall vehicle sales growth.

China’s overall vehicle market growth was the weakest last year in at least two decades, increasing only 3 per cent year-on-year to 28.88 million vehicles.

Two insiders at the Japanese automaker said that the target is however more of a “stretch goal.” It is a target that is not the baseline sales forecast and one that executives acknowledge will be difficult to achieve, they said.

“If we could resolve this capacity issue, it would be easy to make the 1.4 million target. With sufficient capacity, we can possibly sell 1.5 million vehicles,” one of the two people said.

Toyota’s forecast for 2018 is relatively more upbeat than the previous few years in part because it expects to launch a couple of potentially high-volume subcompact sport-utility vehicles (SUVs) later this year, the people said.

A Toyota spokesman said that though the 2018 sales target was not one that can be easily achieved due to the highly competitive market environment, the recent launch of a redesigned Camry sedan and the planned introduction of two subcompact SUVs later this year would enable Toyota to challenge the previous year’s numbers.

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