Category Archive:

Toyota Prius c: PC Car for the Masses

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Conspicuous conservation is for the rich. Or at least that’s what the data show. In general, AutoPacific research shows that buyers of hybrids make more money than buyers of comparable vehicles. Not surprising, since hybrids are more expensive than single engine vehicles and generally do not reap the economic rewards of their fuel efficiency before they have been traded in.

But now that there are more than 2.5 million Prius’ on the road worldwide (1.1 million in the US), economies of scale might help make having a PC ride possible for the masses. In fact, by the end of the decade, the Prius family of vehicles may be the leading nameplate for Toyota sales in the US. At least that’s what’s Toyota is betting on with the Prius c.


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AutoPacific’s 2011 Plug-In Car Supertest

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Without question, one of the most buzzworthy topics surrounding automobiles this year has been plug-in cars.  Issues like fuel price instability, dependence on foreign oil (or oil of any sort!), and the environment have stirred the imaginations of many people.  Could we really rid ourselves of oil-powered transportation?  Could America really free itself of its addiction?  At the very end of last year, the Chevrolet Volt and Nissan Leaf went on sale (retailing at $41,000 and $32,780, respectively, minus a $7,500 Federal tax credit), finally bringing plug-in transportation to the masses and, plug-in fans hope, heralding a new era in automotive history.


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2012 Toyota Camry: Automotive Version of iPhone 3G to 3GS

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A few weeks ago I ventured to the middle of no where in Washington to feast on all of the new Camry variants for the 2012 model year.  Did Toyota churn up a revolution or an evolution?  With the Camry tattered and torn during the past few years I was excited to see what Toyota had done to turn the page on the next chapter for the Camry.


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Analysis: Ford & Toyota’s New “Hybrid Synergy”

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If you think back, GM developed the 2 Mode Hybrid system in collaboration with BMW and Daimler-Chrysler.  Chrysler had about a two month run of Durango and Aspen hybrids.  If you see one on the road you might consider it to be an exotic due to how rare it is.  BMW has a hybrid system in their X6, but it is for performance more than fuel economy.  Daimler has a RWD hybrid system in the Mercedes-Benz S Class, but the fuel economy hasn’t been anything to make headlines with.  While not being much of a success for any party involved in that collaboration, one GM engineer described the 2 Mode hybrid system to me as a “very expensive science project”.  What Ford and Toyota teamed up to do today looks to be more than a science experiment.


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Toyota RAV4 Wins AutoPacific Ideal Vehicle Award for Mid-Size Crossover SUVs

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The evergreen RAV4 achieves the highest ranking among Mid-Size XSUVs based on owner ratings in AutoPacific’s 2011 Ideal Vehicle Research.  As winner of its class, RAV4 owners want little significant changed with the notable exception that 35% want more infotainment technology.  This is confirmation that, even as you move down in vehicle classes, buyers today want all the bells and whistles available in more expensive vehicles.  Slightly over 20% of RAV4 owners want better interior lighting, better safety features, better visibility and more roominess.  About 15% of RAV4 owners want a softer ride.  RAV4 owners most like its seat comfort.  RAV4 nosed out the even-older Mazda Tribute to win its class.


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Toyota Sequoia Wins AutoPacific Ideal Vehicle Award for Large SUVs

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The Sequoia is the top ranked Large SUV based on ratings by its owners in AutoPacific’s 2011 Ideal Vehicle Research.  Sequoia owners identify little significant that needs to be changed, but 30% want more infotainment technology, 25% want more cargo room, and 20% want better visibility and more daring styling.  Sequoia owners most like seat comfort, ride comfort and size.   Sequoia noses out the Ford Expedition for top spot. 


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Volt Wins Among Today’s Hybrids and EVs

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Two new, completely different high efficiency cars entered the American car market earlier this year – the Nissan Leaf and Chevrolet Volt – and AutoPacific set out to find out how different the owners of those cars were from owners of hybrid cars like the Toyota Prius and Honda Insight.  We also are looking at how satisfied buyers are with the cars and what they would like changed.

Think of these four cars as being purpose-built for their technology.  They did not simply adapt their new powertrain technology to an existing vehicle such as the Ford Fusion Hybrid or the Toyota Highlander Hybrid.  The Chevrolet Volt is an Extended Range Electric Vehicle.  The Nissan Leaf is a pure Battery Electric Vehicle.  And the Toyota Prius and Honda Insight are pure Hybrids.

Based on AutoPacific’s annual New Vehicle Satisfaction Survey which has a total of almost 73,000 new car and light truck owner responses to a comprehensive questionnaire about the car buying and ownership experience, the comparison finds some interesting and insightful results.

Leaf and Volt Owners are Dramatically Different from Prius and Insight Owners: Volt owners paid $43,000 for their new car.  Leaf owners paid $34,500.  Prius and Insight owners paid $25,000 and $21,000 respectively.  Given the price points, Volt and Leaf owners are the most affluent with incomes of $150,000.  Prius owners have an income of $100,000 and Insight owners have an income of $80,000.

Leaf and Volt owners are much more likely to be male and much more into the technology of their new car.  They are very similar to early buyers of hybrids who were enamored with the new innovative technology of their vehicle.  The Leaf and Insight owners are the youngest of the group at 53 and 54 years of age respectively.  Owners of the much more expensive Volt are 58 as are owners of the Prius.

Leaf owners have the highest level of education.  About 90% have a college education.  About 70% of Volt, Insight and Prius owners have a college education.  Leaf owners are much more likely to be retired (almost 50%).  Only 17% of Insight owners are retired.  About a third of Leaf owners are in a technical profession as are 20% of Volt owners.

Leaf owners are most likely (24%) to have owned a hybrid before.  Prius owners are almost as likely to have owned a hybrid (23%) as Leaf owners.  Volt (8%) and Insight (8%) owners are newcomers to the world of alternative fuel vehicles.  Volt owners are most likely to have previously driven a compact car (18%) or mid-size car (14%), Insight owners were most likely to have previously driven a compact car (23%) or a mid-size car (23%).

Satisfaction – Volt Wins: About 86% of Volt owners are very satisfied with their vehicles compared with 80% of Leaf owners, 70% of Prius owners and 54% of Insight owners.  Among these four cars, Volt owners are most satisfied by a substantial margin.  Leaf and Prius owners are about equally satisfied.  Insight owners are the least satisfied among the four cars.  Out of 48 satisfaction categories in the research,  Volt owners are the most satisfied in 38 of the categories… an overwhelming win.


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2013 Toyota RAV4 EV Prototype: A Quick Spin

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I’m at Toyota’s third Sustainable Mobility Seminar at the moment, a deep dive into the issues surrounding sustainable motoring featuring excellent speakers from industry and academia.  I’ll admit, my head is still spinning from all the education I’ve received over the last twenty-four hours, but there’s one part of the event I feel compelled to write about – right now.  All of us in attendance got the media’s very first chance to drive fully working prototypes of Toyota’s upcoming fully electric RAV4 EV.  As AutoPacific’s resident treehugger, I couldn’t wait to get behind the wheel of Toyota’s upcoming electric SUV.


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Changing the face of Attractiveness – Toyota Tacoma Case Study

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Automotive product planners (VLMs) work with engineering, design, finance and marketing departments in an effort to make a vehicle attractive. Whether that attraction comes in the form of capability, styling, lease rates or message they are ultimately charged with helping sell the product.
Sometimes the decisions to change a vehicle makes perfect sense and help improve the desirability or attractiveness of a vehicle – especially a vehicle that has to sell well over the course of a long production run (like 8 years or more!). We’ve noticed one of the ways Toyota freshens up their Tacoma ‘s is with a new front grille. In fact, in the last 4 years Toyota has installed 3 different factory front grilles into the Tacoma – from the black 2-bar to argent 2-bar to a black single bar (2011).
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This change does alter the front fascia of the pickup but does it improve attractiveness or is it seen as a cheap attempt to ‘freshen’ a vehicle with minimal effort?
Has Toyota always changed the front grille for the better? We’ve heard a few complaints about the ‘agrent’ (silver color) grille (2009 & 2010) and it appears that the 2011 Tacoma grille has some current gen 4Runner DNA.
It looks like Toyota has changed the front grille at least 8 times over the last 16 years…
Has it always been an improvement? What do you think?

Posted in: Road Noise, Toyota

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2012 Lexus CT200h – Range Expansion Attracts GenX and GenY to Lexus

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Lexus CT200h 2011 FV.jpg
Think Audi A3, BMW 1-Series and Volvo C30 and you can better understand the competitive set Lexus is targeting with its all new CT200h 5-door hatchback to be launched in February 2011. Also think of the CT200h as a product really designed for the European market where it is right-sized and right-styled.
The competitive set in the USA sells less than 1,500 units per month now – or about 18,000 per year – small potatoes in a 12,000,000 unit industry. Lexus is going after 1,000 units per month – immediately intending capturing 40% of this small segment. Can they do it?
Given pricing in the low $30,0oo range, the CT will undercut the IS 250, but Lexus management tells us it won’t squeak in under the $30K barrier which could prove to be a psychological threshhold.


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