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Hyundai Azera and Toyota Avalon Win AutoPacific 2007 Vehicle Satisfaction Award for Large Car

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Hyundai Azera and Toyota Avalon Tied for AutoPacific 2007 Large Car Vehicle Satisfaction Award:
“The then all-new Hyundai Azera was the top rated vehicle overall in AutoPacific’s 2006 Vehicle Satisfaction Awards. Again this year, Hyundai Azera owners gave the Azera class winning ratings,” said AutoPacific president George Peterson. “Azera owners rated their vehicle highly for Power/Acceleration, Innovative Technology, Value and especially Warranty. Tied for a win in this segment was the Toyota Avalon, the Toyota Division flagship, which scored well for Ride, and such traditional Toyota strengths as Quality, Reliability, Durability and Anticipated Resale Value”.


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Toyota Global Sales Top GM in 1st Quarter 2007

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Toyota sold more cars and trucks globally during 1st Quarter 2007 than General Motors. For the first time in 79 years General Motors’ global sales have been topped by a major competitor.
GM’s Global Sales Leadership Crown in Jeopardy
During the 1st Quarter Toyota sold 2.35 million vehicles compared with 2.26 million vehicles for General Motors. This shift had been forecast to occur during the 2007 calendar year, but not as early as the 1st Quarter.
Toyota sells Toyota, Lexus and Scion vehicles in the USA. Major stakes in Daihatsu and Subaru are not included in the global sales totals. General Motors sales includes Chevrolet, Pontiac, Buick, GMC, Cadillac, Saturn, HUMMER, Saab, Opel, and Vauxhall.

VehicleVoice Research Indicates Toyota will Continue to Gain on General Motors in USA

In VehicleVoice brand image and consideration research reported on April 16, 2007, positive consideration for Toyota in the USA was 54% compared with 42% for General Motors as a whole. Consideration for Ford Motor Company products was 44% and Honda products was 53% in the same study. While Toyota continues to be a distant second or third to General Motors in the USA, this continuing level of strong positive consideration indicates that Toyota should be able to continue to close the gap year-by-year.
New Products in USA Bolster Toyota’s Position
In 2006 and early 2007 Toyota launched or renewed a slew of vehicles in the USA. The new Yaris small car replaced the under-performing and unfortunately styled Echo. The FJ Cruiser was launched to rave reviews and strong sales. The Camry was all new and earned the Motor Trend 2007 Car of the Year Award. The all new Lexus LS460 has arguably established a new luxury car benchmark in the premium luxury car market in the USA. And we can’t forget the launch of the all-new Toyota Tundra full size pickup. Tundra finally becomes a fully-competitive half-ton pickup for 2007. While still lacking 3/4 and 1 Ton models, the Tundra should give its half ton competition a run for the money.
Can GM Hold off Toyota?
While the annual global sales figures are still months away, Toyota may, indeed, be able to wrest the global sales crown from GM this year. General Motors is moving aggressively to add capacity and sales in China. If this comes on stream quickly enough, GM may be able to parry the threat.
Stay tuned.


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VehicleVoice Panelists' Opinion of Manufacturers

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During the last week of March 2007, 1,254 VehicleVoice panelists responded to an Internet survey concerning their opinion of major automakers in the USA. VehicleVoice asked these questions because the opinion of buyers and their attitudes towards various aspects of a manufacturer’s image are critically important. Managing image and opinion plus understanding what is driving that opinion can influence whether a person will positively consider or reject a brand next time they are in the market.
The key question in the VehicleVoice survey was whether the respondent’s opinion of a manufacturer had changed since this time last year. If their opinion had changed, the panel member was given the chance to explain why their opinion had changed. We received over 5,000 comments concerning these manufacturers. Some were as short one word. Some were as long as a page of 10-point type. Folks really had a lot to say and their comments were fascinating.

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Discussion for each of the brands is below the fold.


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Playboy Awards 2007 Cars of the Year

You could tell from the smiles on the faces of the suits from Cadillac that they had just come from something special. The Cadillac Escalade had just won the Playboy 2007 Car of the Year Award. Jim Taylor, Cadillac General Manager was lugging around a golden trophy with a totally blinged-out Playboy bunny glued to it and a discreet plaque proclaiming Escalade’s win.

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Playboy Magazine has just named their 2007 Cars of the Year. Included in this year’s list were:
Playboy 2007 Car of the Year – BMW Z4 M
Best SUV – Cadillac Escalade
Best Sports Coupe – Porsche 911 Carrera
Best Bang for the Buck – Ford Mustang Shelby GT 500
The Al Gore Special – Lexus GS450h
Best Two-Way Player – Volkswagen Eos
Best Pickup – Toyota Tundra
Best Cross Dresser – Mazda CX-7
Best Roadster – Saturn Sky Red Line
Oh yeah, about the presentations. Apparently, a hostess Playmate gave the executives a tour around the Playboy Mansion. A former Playmate, the young lady was extremely well spoken, knew her stuff and presented Playboy in a very favorable light. What I’m saying is that she wasn’t the airhead blonde bimbette that may have been expected at Playboy.


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VehicleVoice#62 – The 2007 Toyota Tundra and the Future of Minivans

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Most of you already know that Jim Hossack is AutoPacific’s expert on a lot of things – fuel prices, powertrains, trucks. But did you know that he’s also an expert in minivans? For the past several years, when we’re covering the big auto shows, Jim’s assignments have always been about the new truck models and minivan breakthroughs. But recently, there hasn’t been a lot of news surrounding minivans. Ford and GM have been clear that they think the segment is dying, and their exit strategy is uncomplicated. They’re just getting out. But Jim was in the Chrysler booth to check out the new 2007 Town & Country, aka Dodge Caravan, and he says, “not so fast” Ford and GM. There’s still a healthy segment here.
In this podcast, we’ve got Jim doing double duty at the Toyota booth. The Japanese manufacturer is taking it’s (first, second, third) fourth carefully planned step into the full-sized truck market with the new 2007 Tundra. And according to Jim, Toyota’s latest try is right on the money.
New Vehicle Reviews –
Dodge Caravan
Toyota Tundra

Show Runtime – 6:02


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2007 Chicago Auto Show: 2008 Toyota Highlander

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Highlander Evolves with More Size and Power
Ahead of sales in July 2007, Toyota used its traditional opening press conference of the 2007 Chicago auto show to launch the 2008 Highlander. Toyota’s new Highlander keeps its personality as a car-based crossover SUV, updated to the latest Camry/Avalon platform. The new Highlander is bigger and heavier, but Toyota gives it more power, with both the Hybrid and new standard 3.5L V6 estimated to deliver 270HP. The Hybrid goes on sale shortly after the standard model.

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Highlander already offered a third-row seat, but the extra three inches in wheelbase and four inches in length should make for a more comfortable interior. The new size is a bit bigger than the Honda Pilot and the same length as the Chevrolet Equinox. It is bigger than the Mazda CX-7 and Ford Edge, but smaller than Mazda’s CX-9 or the newly renamed Ford Taurus X (the XSUV formerly known as the Ford Freestyle). Highlander is better sized for those using the third row as occasional-use seating, instead of emergency seats.
So, the question is whether or not the new 2008 out-Pilots the excellent Honda Pilot?
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2007 Chicago Auto Show: Scion's 2008 xB and xD

Introduction Simulcast on SecondLife.com
While Scion Vice President, Mark Templin, was presenting the new xB and xD to media at the Chicago auto show, his alter-personality at secondlife.com (called an avatar) was doing the same. SecondLife.com is an online world that started in 2003 and is now “inhabited” by 3.4 million people globally, and this is the first vehicle introduction simulcast in this online world. Secondlife.com is another way to communicate with people who need transportation once they return to the physical world and automotive manufacturers are taking notice. This is especially relevant for Scion, a brand with an average buyer at only 30 years old and an owner base that is probably the most plugged in of all.

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2008 xB and xD Take Over from First xB and xA
Scion was first envisioned as a line of cars with single lifecycles, though a box is expected to be a staple of the brand. Following this plan, the second-generation xB and the new xD were introduced at the 2007 Chicago auto show. xD takes the showroom space previously occupied by the xA. The xB arrives in dealers in April 2007 and the xD in August.
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2007 Detroit Auto Show: Toyota FT-HS, the 21st Century Sports Car

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Toyota Tests Viability of New-Generation Sports Car
The concept developed for Toyota‘s 2007 North American International Auto Show stand had both Supra and green-car enthusiasts drooling. Since Toyota dropped the Supra in 1997, rumors and dreams of its revival have repeatedly resurfaced. Supra enthusiasts reacted like Chevrolet Camaro fans; there weren’t enough of them buying the product to keep it around, but they still keep looking for a successor. It is not surprising that Toyota’s 2007 North American International Auto Show star concept, the FT-HS, was most often called a Supra successor.

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Though many of those enthusiast dreams for a new Supra were dreams, ten years later the possibility remains for Toyota to again tackle the sports car segment. Is this truly a Supra successor? No. A production FT-HS would be in response to the market of today and where the company sees it going tomorrow. Toyota’s image might benefit from a halo car, to go along with the image of bulletproof reliability. And if Toyota does go for it, a hybrid powertrain is a good bet.
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2007 Detroit Auto Show – 2008 Honda Accord Coupe – Accord to Pass Camry?

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There are two Mid-Size Cars that every buyer of a Mid-Size Car has to consider before selecting one of them, or moving on to another – the Honda Accord and the Toyota Camry. These cars are in the consideration set of almost all Mid-Size Car buyers. On a rigid 5-year schedule, Honda is to introduce its all new 2008 Accord in Fall 2007. Honda used the 2007 North American International Auto Show to tip its hand about styling cues for the next generation Accord. it used the Accord Coupe Concept to do this.

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Unveiling the Honda Accord Coupe concept did more than ‘wow’ those in attendance at the Detroit Show, it put Toyota on notice. The Accord Coupe Concept telegraphs cues that will be found on the upcoming Honda Accord Sedan.
Accord Has Been Top Selling Car As Recently As 2001, But Not In the Cards Now
The current Toyota Camry, which has been the top-selling passenger car in the USA for several years now and in its latest iteration is Motor Trend’s Car of the Year, will again have a worthy competitor offering consumers a distinctive alternative. In the last 25 years the Accord has sat atop Car and Driver’s 10 Best list all but 4 times. Accord was the top selling car in the USA from 1989 through 1991 and in 2001. The Camry has been the top-seller since it wrested the title away from the 1992 through 1996 king – the Ford Taurus for every year except 2001. Will the 2008 Accord again set the sales benchmark in its segment?
The answer to that question is NO. Accord will not become the sales leader until there is more production capacity added for Accord. At the present time, Toyota can out-produce Accord with its Camry and this is especially true since it began assembling Camrys at Subaru Indiana Automotive.
But back to the Accord Coupe Concept…
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Ward's 10 Best Engines of 2007

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WardsAuto.com has announced its 10 Best Engines for 2007. Let’s see how VehicleVoice agrees with the Wards’ results… they are presented in alphabetical order:

Audi AG 2.0L turbocharged DOHC I4 – Audi A3 –
We agree wholeheartedly with this engine selection, but Ward’s gives it short shrift by identifying only the Audi A3 as having this engine. It is also found in the Audi A4, Volkswagen Eos, Volkswagen GTi, Volkswagen Jetta and even the Volkswagen Passat. A real nice driving 4-cylinder turbo that is the workhorse of the spirited Volkswagen/Audi lineups.
BMW AG 3.0L DOHC I6 – BMW Z4 3.0si – BMW in-line sixes are always works of art. Smooth, effortless, always feel that they are putting out more horsepower than their ratings. Ward’s has selected the higher horsepower version found in the Z4 3.0si – it puts out 255-horsepower and has 220 pound-feet of torque. This engine is also found in the BMW 530 sedan.
BMW AG 3.0L turbocharged DOHC I6 – BMW 335i – We don’t really go with turbocharged engines much. There is usually no replacement for displacement. But the 3.0L Turbo in the 335i is a sweet piece. Turns the 335i into a Q-ship with near M3-levels of performance.
DaimlerChrysler AG 3.0L DOHC V6 turbodiesel -Mercedes-Benz E320 Bluetec/Jeep Grand Cherokee CRD – We appreciate the sentiment, but until a diesel can be sold in all 50 states, we won’t agree that it is one of the best engines. Diesels deserve a significant place in the USA automotive landscape, but regulations, technology, fuel costs, fuel availability have all conspired against widespread diesel acceptance.
DaimlerChrysler AG 5.7L OHV Hemi V8 – Chrysler 300C – Chrysler Group has built a franchise around the HEMI. The low cost, Mexican-produced, overhead valve, high output engine almost singlehandedly resurrected Chrysler from its early 21st Century doldrums. Don’t forget the HEMI can be found in all large, rear wheel drive Chrysler, Dodge products as well as the two largest Jeep entries.
Ford Motor Co. Duratec 35 3.5L DOHC V6 – Ford Edge/Lincoln MKX – Ward’s specifies the Ford/Lincoln Crossover Sport Utility Vehicles as the vehicles where the new Duratec 35 is found, but don’t forget the Lincoln MKZ (Zephyr) and the Mazda CX-9. While this higher output V6 is sorely needed by Ford and will eventually find its way through the Ford lineup, somehow the horses feel weaker than its 263-horsepower output suggests. We’ll reserve judgment on this one.
Ford Motor Co. 4.6L SOHC V8 – Mustang GT/Mustang Shelby GT – The 4.6L is the workhorse V8 for Ford’s rear wheel drive platforms. A very reliable, bulletproof powerplant, the 4.6L has proven to be very flexible up and down the horsepower scales. Driving the higher horsepower versions in the Mustang is a delight.
Mazda Motor Corp. 2.3L DISI turbocharged DOHC I4 – MazdaSpeed3 – A very willing and berserk powerplant in the MazdaSpeed3, the 2.3L Turbo provides more than enough power to generate nutso torque-steer in the MazdaSpeed3. Torque steer has always been a bugaboo in high output front wheel drive Mazdas and the combination of power and chassis dynamics in the MazdaSpeed3 may have set a new high (or low).
Nissan Motor Co. Ltd. 3.5L DOHC V6 -Infiniti G35 – We assume that Ward’s is referring to the higher output VQ found only in the Infiniti vehicles for 2007/2008. A significant upgrade from previous VQ V6s, the Infiniti has been finessed to new levels of power, smoothness and “engine music”. Still a bit of a lump in the fuel efficiency category, however. And the VQ’s refinement has pretty much been sub-par compared to the Audi, BMW and Lexus (Toyota) sixes against which it competes.
Toyota Motor Corp. 3.5L DOHC V6 -Lexus IS 350 – Another Japanese V6 putting out over 300-horsepower from 3.5-liters. Sweet, quick revving, quick. But unlike the Nissan VQ in the Infiniti, the Lexus 3.5L seems to lack the passion that really stirs the senses. Maybe it is the “engine music” thing. But it’s far more likely the effect of the Toyota engine’s astonishing refinement.


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