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Toyota Unveils Compact Dedicated Hybrid Concept, Reveals Future Plan for ‘Prius Family’ North American Marketing Strategy

Wednesday, January 20th, 2010

Toyota Motor Sales (TMS), U.S.A, Inc., today unveiled the FT-CH dedicated hybrid concept at the North American International Auto Show (NAIAS) in Detroit. The FT-CH is a concept that would address Toyota’s stated strategy to offer a wider variety of conventional hybrid choices to its customers, as it begins to introduce plug-in hybrids (PHVs) and battery electrics (BEVs) in model year 2012, and hydrogen fuel cell vehicles (FCHVs) in 2015 in global markets.

“Within the next 10 to 20 years, we will not only reach peak oil we will enter a period where demand for all liquid fuels will exceed supply,” said Jim Lentz, TMS president. “A century after the invention of the automobile, we must re-invent it with powertrains that significantly reduce or eliminate the use of conventional petroleum fuels. One of many alternatives is through what is commonly called the electrification of the automobile. By far, the single most successful example of this has been the gas-electric hybrid.”

The CH stands for compact hybrid as in compact class and it’s a concept that can best be defined by comparing it with the mid-size class Prius. The FT-CH captures the spirit and functionality of a car that thrives in the inner-city environment; sized right to be nimble, responsive and maneuverable.

“It’s a package Toyota dealers and customers have been asking for,” added Lentz.

The FT-CH was styled at Toyota’s European Design and Development (ED²) center in Nice, France. Compared to Prius, it is 22 inches shorter in overall length, yet loses less than an inch in overall width. In spite of its compact external dimensions, FT-CH was designed for maximum passenger comfort and interior roominess, with an imaginative sense of style.

ED² designers looked to capture the vivid, high-energy appeal of what has come to be called the 8-bit generation. Popularized in the early 80’s, 8-bit microprocessor technology dominated the budding home video game industry. Today, 8-bit is considered a specific retro-style that is embraced by such things as 8-bit genre music and 8-bit inspired art.

The direct reference to the 8-bit generation is meant to be fun and innovative, colorful and stylish, with strong appeal to young buyers. Lighter in weight and even more fuel efficient than Prius, the concept specifically targets a lower price point than Prius, thus appealing to a younger, less-affluent buyer demographic.

Pointing to how Prius has become a universal icon for hybrid technology, Lentz confirmed that TMS is developing a Prius family “marketing strategy” for North America that will take full advantage of the Prius brand equity.

“The strategy is still taking shape and obviously it will require additional models to qualify as a family,” said Lentz. “Among others, the FT-CH is a concept that we are considering.”

In the early 2010s, Toyota plans to sell a million hybrids per year globally, a majority of those in North America. To accomplish this, Toyota will launch eight all new hybrid models over the next few years. These will not include next generation versions of current hybrids; instead, they will be all new dedicated hybrid vehicles, or all new hybrid versions of existing gas engine models.

The heart of hybrid technology is its battery. Since the early 90’s, during the early stages of first-generation Prius development, Toyota has been committed to in-house R&D of advanced nickel-metal hydride batteries.

Through three generations of Prius and a total of seven full-hybrid models, it has systematically reduced size, weight and cost while improving energy density, quality and reliability.

Toyota’s joint venture partnership with Panasonic has been a key element of its success in the advancement of hybrid technology. Later this year, Panasonic EV Energy (PEVE) will have three separate, fully operational production facilities with a combined capacity of more than one million units per year.

Moving the promise of electrification one step further, Toyota recently kicked off its global demonstration program involving approximately 600 Prius plug-in hybrid electric vehicles. Beginning early this year, 150 PHVs will begin to arrive in the U.S. where they will be placed in regional clusters with select partners for market/consumer analysis and technical demonstration.

The Prius PHV introduces Toyota’s first generation lithium-ion drive battery. When fully charged, the vehicle is targeted to achieve a maximum electric-only range of about 13 miles and capable of achieving highway speeds of more than 60 mph in electric-only mode. For longer distances, the Prius PHV reverts to “hybrid mode” and operates like a regular Prius. This ability to utilize all-electric power for short trips or hybrid power for longer drives alleviates the issue of limited cruising range encountered with pure-electric vehicles.

All program vehicles will be equipped with data retrieval/communication devices which will monitor activities such as: how often the vehicle is charged and when, whether the batteries are depleted or being topped-off during charging, trip duration and all-electric driving range, combined mpg and so on.

As it becomes available, data from the program vehicles will be posted to a dedicated Web site. This in use, readily available data will help consumers understand how the vehicles are being used and how they’re performing.

Toyota believes this demonstration program is a necessary next step in societal preparation in that it allows Toyota the unique opportunity to inform, educate and prepare customers for the electrification of the automobile in general and the introduction of plug-in hybrid technology.

Toyota is moving quickly with the development of PHV technology well beyond this demonstration program. Advanced battery R&D programs with nickel-metal, lithium-ion and “beyond lithium” are underway for a wide variety of applications in conventional hybrids, PHVs, BEVs and FCHVs.

In the early 1990s, Toyota began R&D on building a practical and affordable hydrogen fuel cell vehicle. FCHV technical advancements have moved at a rapid pace. Engineers have made great strides in cost reduction targets in both materials and manufacturing and Toyota is committed to bringing hydrogen fuel cells to global markets in 2015.

Toyota’s latest model, the Toyota FCHV-advanced began its own national demonstration program late last year. Over the course of the three year program, more than 100 vehicles will be placed in an effort to demonstrate the technology’s performance, reliability and practicality in everyday use.

Recently field tested in southern California by two national laboratories at the request of the U.S. Department of Energy, the FCHV-advanced confirmed an estimated single-tank fuel range of 431 miles. In combined city and highway driving from Santa Monica to San Diego the FCHV-adv logged an estimated 68 miles per kilogram of hydrogen, the rough equivalent of 68 miles per gallon. That range is equivalent to a Highlander hybrid at more than double the MPG with zero emissions other than water vapor.

In 1997, Toyota introduced the RAV4 EV battery electric vehicle in California. 1,484 of these 100 mile range large-battery electric vehicles were either sold or leased over the course of the program. Nearly half are still on the road.

Shortly thereafter, Toyota started a modest demonstration program with a small- battery electric urban commuter vehicle, called the e-com. This concept addressed the idea of the “on-demand” city station car similar to the Zip-car business model that is becoming popular in large urban areas. Although shorter in range, the e-com program addressed a specific mobility niche at a much more affordable price than the RAV4 EV.

The RAV4 EV and e-com programs were short lived due to lack of commitment from the market; the consumer and the consumer’s environmental mind set were not ready to commit to battery electric vehicles at that time. Recent increased awareness of environmental issues and the benefits of advanced technology vehicles have reinvigorated an interest in the electric vehicle market. As a result, Toyota will bring a small, urban commuter lithium-ion BEV to market in model year 2012.

Battery technology has progressed significantly in the time since the RAV4 EV and e-com programs. But major challenges still remain. The cost of lithium-ion batteries needs to be reduced significantly, or a more affordable alternative developed.

Like hydrogen fuel cell vehicles, battery electrics will require the creation of infrastructure for recharging on the go. This issue of range is also a challenge to overcome. Even at 100 miles, BEVs as a primary mode of transportation do not yet offer what most consumers see as true mobility.

Toyota believes these are hurdles that will be cleared. For the last decade its focus has been to concentrate on a comprehensive advanced technology strategy including BEVs, PHVs, and FCHVs. Common to all three is the move to electrification, the full commitment to advanced battery technology and how lessons learned from conventional hybrid R&D have given Toyota a leg-up on all three.

Source: http://pressroom.toyota.com/pr/tms/toyota/toyota-unveils-compact-dedicated-151199.aspx

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Honda Builds Record 84% of 2009 U.S. Auto Sales in North America

Friday, January 15th, 2010

Highest Total Since Honda Began Producing Autos in America in 1982

An all-time high of 83.8 percent of the Honda and Acura automobiles sold in the United States in 2009 were produced* at the company’s plants in North America, American Honda Motor Co., Inc., announced today. American Honda has maintained a local production rate of approximately 75 percent or higher since 1996.

Honda operates seven automobile plants in North America – four in the U.S., two in Canada and one in Mexico, producing fifteen different models, including the Civic sedan, coupe and GX (natural gas vehicle), Accord sedan, coupe and Crosstour, Odyssey, Pilot, Ridgeline, CR-V and Element, as well as the Acura TL, ZDX, RDX and MDX models.

Honda’s North American plants produced a total of more than one million vehicles in 2009, including those for export and currently in dealer inventory. Of the more than 1.15 million Honda and Acura automobiles sold in the U.S. in 2009, the 83.8 percent local production rate is the highest percentage in the company’s 27-year history of making automobiles in the region and by far the highest percentage for any international automaker in 2009.

“As part of our long-standing commitment to build Honda and Acura products close to our customers, we have steadily deepened our automobile manufacturing roots in the U.S. and the North America region,” said Tetsuo Iwamura, president & CEO of American Honda Motor Co., Inc. “Using our flexible manufacturing capacity, we plan to continue to maintain our local production levels at approximately 80 percent of our annual sales.”

Honda began production of the fuel efficient Honda Civic sedan at its seventh North American auto plant, in Greensburg, Indiana, in October 2008. In 2009, the company added production of two new crossover vehicles – the Honda Accord Crosstour, manufactured in East Liberty, Ohio, and the Acura ZDX, manufactured in Alliston, Ontario – along with the addition of fuel-efficient four-cylinder engine production at a new engine plant in Ontario, Canada.

Honda has exported nearly 960,000 automobiles from its plants in North America to more than 100 countries around the world since 1987, including approximately 27,000 vehicles in 2009, as well as exporting more than 300,000 component parts last year to be used in the assembly of Honda products in other nations.
In addition to automobile production, Honda operates three automobile engine plants in North America – two in the U.S. and one in Canada – along with two U.S. plants for the production of automatic transmissions and gear sets; a power equipment and small engine plant, in North Carolina; and a plant producing Honda all-terrain vehicles, in South Carolina.

Two additional new plants, for the production of the HondaJet advanced light jet and the GE Honda turbofan engine, are under construction in the communities of Greensboro and Burlington, North Carolina, respectively.

Source: http://www.honda.com/newsandviews/article.aspx?id=5354

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Ford Reveals Biggest, Most Experiential Display For 2010 North American in Ternational Aato Show

Thursday, January 14th, 2010

Ford Motor Company’s stand at the 2010 North American International Auto Show (NAIAS) promises to be the biggest and most engaging in history, with more than 54,000 square feet of new vehicle displays, 24 all-new interactive displays and a variety of high-tech presentations including live driving demonstrations inside Cobo Center.

The auto shows held throughout the year – beginning with NAIAS in Detroit – are an important way for Ford to communicate with consumers about new Ford, Lincoln and Mercury products and technologies. Last year’s Ford display generated more than 125,000 consumer leads, 22,000 actual test drives and 2,020 vehicle sales to date.

“Allowing consumers to interact with our products in an engaging and experiential way is a very effective way to demonstrate the strength of our products,” said Jim Farley, group vice president of Global Marketing and Canada, Mexico and South America operations. “There’s no better venue than an auto show to demonstrate our advanced technology and products at a critical point in the buying process for many attendees.”

One of the highlights of this year’s Ford show stand – which is 48 percent larger than last year’s – will be live driving demonstrations of Ford’s new Active Park Assist (APA) technology, which helps drivers parallel park a vehicle with the touch of a button and without ever laying a hand on the steering wheel.

“Ford will offer auto show visitors the opportunity to participate in an actual driving experience,” said John Felice, general manager, Ford, Lincoln-Mercury marketing. “Our advanced hybrid technology allows us to demonstrate these vehicles in battery only mode which eliminates all vehicle emissions. This gives us yet another opportunity to provide an experience that is more engaging than a static display.”

Also for the first time ever at NAIAS, Ford executives from around the world will host a social media press conference on Jan. 11, which will include 12 hours of continuous live social media activities on Twitter Q&As, Live Stream Interviews, Facebook Wall chats and blogger interviews.

More new vehicles, interactive displays
At NAIAS, Ford Motor Company will display 60 new Ford cars and trucks and 21 new Lincoln and Mercury vehicles. A new powertrain display includes two assembly-line robots from the Cleveland Engine Plant, named Eco and Boost, where the company’s new EcoBoost engines are built.

Ford’s entire new car portfolio will be on display inside the floor’s Blue Oval – everything from the new Ford Fiesta to the company’s flagship sedan, the Ford Taurus.

Visitors to the Fiesta area can take a break and play Foosball on one of the world’s largest Foosball tables, Twitter their reactions to Fiesta, and learn about the 15 class-leading exclusive features that put Fiesta head and shoulders above competitors in the B segment. A Taurus SHO in-car theater will take visitors for a ride through both the tame and wild sides of Taurus SHO.

Taking center stage in the Ford display will be the next-generation Ford Focus, where visitors can learn about the agility and precision of Focus’s driving dynamics by playing the Control Blade Challenge, which is like a Wii game. Touch-screen digital displays explain Focus technologies and allow visitors to integrate their pictures into a virtual world and e-mail it to themselves. There also will be special zones for Ford crossovers and trucks and specially built areas for the Ford Mustang, Taurus, Fiesta, Fusion, Transit Connect and Super Duty.

The latest entry in the Lincoln lineup – the 2011 MKX – will launch at NAIAS, too. Lincoln will present an attention-getting cutaway of the vehicle to demonstrate the class-leading technology, safety and luxury features, including the industry exclusive MyLincoln Touch™.

To demonstrate this advanced feature, a one-of-a-kind 16 x 3-foot interactive table will take visitors on a journey through Lincoln’s thoughtful, purposeful technology; with the new MyLincoln Touch seamlessly integrated into the experience.

“The Ford auto show display is proof that Ford is launching more product than any other manufacturer,” said Farley. “In 2010, Ford globally will deliver five times more new or freshened product than even 2009, bringing to market an unprecedented volume of new products people want – with class-leading fuel economy, quality, safety and technology.”

Source: http://www.ford.com/about-ford/news-announcements/press-releases/press-releases-detail/pr-ford-reveals-biggest-most-31764

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Ford Launches Unprecedented Nine New Engines, Six New Transmissions in North America in 2010

Thursday, January 14th, 2010

Ford Motor Company will introduce nine new or upgraded engines and six new transmissions in North America in 2010 as part of a five-year effort to overhaul its entire global powertrain portfolio.

The push began in 2008 and continues through 2013 and includes 60 new or significantly upgraded engines, transmissions and transaxles globally over the five year period.

One of the advanced and fuel-efficient North American powertrains is the 2012 Ford Focus’ all-new normally aspirated 2.0-liter direct fuel injection engine, the first of its kind in a Ford vehicle in North America.

“Ford is delivering on our commitment to lower emissions, improve fuel economy and deliver the highest quality powertrains in the industry,” said Barb Samardzich, Ford vice president, Powertrain Engineering. “We are making this happen with one of the most ambitious powertrain upgrades ever undertaken by Ford. By the end of 2010, nearly all of Ford’s North American engines will have been upgraded or replaced since 2008.”

North American launches
In 2010, Ford will launch new engines and transmissions in Fiesta, Mustang, Super Duty and F-150. These new powertrains are expected to propel each vehicle to best-in-segment in fuel economy.

Fiesta’s Ti-VCT 1.6-liter engine and PowerShift dual clutch transmission will deliver an estimated 40 mpg on the highway, topping both Honda Fit and Toyota Yaris.

Mustang’s new Ti-VCT 305-horsepower, 3.7-liter V-6 delivers the class-leading performance and fuel economy Mustang buyers expect. The 2011 Mustang V-6 with six-speed automatic will deliver at least 30 mpg on the highway. No other V-6 powered sports coupe in the world delivers this level of performance and fuel economy, regardless of price.

Mustang GT gets a new 5.0-liter V-8 that cranks out a 412 total horsepower and 390 ft.-lb. of torque yet delivers at least 25 mpg on the highway – better than any competitor.

Both versions of the Mustang get all new fuel-saving manual and automatic six-speed transmissions.

Spring also marks the arrival of an all-new Ford-designed-and-built Super Duty diesel truck engine. The 6.7-liter Power Stroke® V-8 turbocharged diesel powerhouse is expected to lead the class in fuel economy towing, hauling, horsepower and torque.

With its advanced emissions systems, the new 6.7-liter diesel engine also will run cleaner than the outgoing model. The 2011 Super Duty also gets a new 6.2-liter gasoline engine.

Even as they concentrate on improving powertrain performance, Ford engineers continue to reduce engine and transmission weight. For example, the new Super Duty diesel and transmission together are185 pounds lighter than the outgoing powertrain.

With its novel features such as a “live drive” Power Take Off (PTO) and rugged TorqShift six-speed automatic transmission, Super Duty will remain the most capable workhorse in the segment.

Ford: Driving powertrain innovations into the market
Other new Ford powertrains coming in 2010 include an EcoBoost 3.5-liter V-6 for the F-150. The EcoBoost 3.5-liter twin-turbocharged engine delivers the thrust and performance feel of a V-8, with the fuel efficiency of a V-6. Current EcoBoost-equipped models are delivering up to a 20 percent improvement in fuel economy and a 15 percent reduction in CO2 emissions versus larger-displacement engines.

By 2013, Ford plans to offer EcoBoost engines on 90 percent of its product lineup with annual volume of vehicles with EcoBoost at 1.3 million globally.

Toward the end of the year, a new 2.0-liter Ti-VCT four-cylinder for the next-generation Focus will mark the first introduction of a normally aspirated direct injection engine to the powertrain lineup. The all new engine will launch on the 2012 Focus in North America.

Ford: America’s fuel economy leader
No automaker has posted a larger fleet-wide gain in fuel economy in the past five years. According to the Environmental Protection Agency, Ford’s combined car and truck fuel economy has improved nearly 20 percent since 2004 – almost double the next closest competitor.

Additionally, Ford’s tailpipe CO2 emissions are declining. Ford’s 2009 fleet-wide average is down approximately 9 percent from 2008.

“We are focused on sustainable technology solutions that can be used not for hundreds or thousands of cars, but for millions of cars, because that’s how Ford will truly make a difference,” said Samardzich.

Source: http://www.ford.com/about-ford/news-announcements/press-releases/press-releases-detail/pr-ford-launches-unprecedented-nine-31765

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Mitsubishi Motors Ends The Year With Positive Sales Momentum

Tuesday, January 5th, 2010

Mitsubishi Motors North America (MMNA) today announced December 2009 sales of 4,355, an increase of 49 percent over November.

“The improvement in December sales validates our renewed strategies and tactics,” said Shinichi Kurihara, president and CEO of Mitsubishi Motors North America. “The input provided by our dealers’ National Advisory Board has been instrumental in guiding our revised sales plans and actions, and will continue to do so as we collaborate to extend this sales momentum.”

December highlights included:

  • Every Mitsubishi model showed an increase in sales compared to the prior month (November 2009).
    Lancer sales were up 13.9 percent compared to the prior month and up 16.9 percent compare to December 2008.
  • Outlander sales were up 81 percent compared to last month. It was Outlander’s third highest monthly sales total in 2009, and sales were up 11.4 percent compared to December 2008.
  • December was Galant’s second best sales month of 2009, up 162 percent compared to last month and up 32 percent compared to December of 2008.
  • Endeavor sales were up 15.9 percent compared to the prior month.
  • Lancer Sportback sales were up 5.8 percent compared to the prior month.

Mitsubishi Motors North America, Inc., (MMNA) is responsible for all manufacturing, finance, sales, and marketing operations for Mitsubishi Motors in the United States. MMNA sells coupes, convertibles, sedans, sport utility vehicles, and light trucks through a network of approximately 420 dealers.

Source: http://media.mitsubishicars.com/releases/1f21fddb-1829-c61e-74db-4cfd4b43944f

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