Crash Data Suggest Driver Error in Toyota Accidents

This is an interesting read published by the Wall Street Journal

By MIKE RAMSEY And KATE LINEBAUGH

The U.S. Department of Transportation has analyzed dozens of data recorders from Toyota Motor Corp. vehicles involved in accidents blamed on sudden acceleration and found that at the time of the crashes, throttles were wide open and the brakes were not engaged, people familiar with the findings said.

The results suggest that some drivers who said their Toyota and Lexus vehicles surged out of control were mistakenly flooring the accelerator when they intended to jam on the brakes. But the findings don’t exonerate Toyota from two known issues blamed for sudden acceleration in its vehicles: sticky accelerator pedals and floor mats that can trap accelerator pedals to the floor.

0713DRIVER

Associated PressA recalled Toyota gas pedal is posed next to a recalled Toyota Avalon at a dealership in Palo Alto, Calif.

The findings by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration involve a sample of reports in which a driver of a Toyota vehicle said the brakes were depressed but failed to stop the car from accelerating and ultimately crashing.

The data recorders analyzed by NHTSA were selected by the agency, not Toyota, based on complaints the drivers had filed with the government.

The findings are consistent with a 1989 government-sponsored study that blamed similar driver mistakes for a rash of sudden-acceleration reports involving Audi 5000 sedans.

The Toyota findings, which haven’t been released by NHTSA, support Toyota’s position that sudden-acceleration reports involving its vehicles weren’t caused by electronic glitches in computer-controlled throttle systems, as some safety advocates and plaintiffs’ attorneys have alleged. More than 100 people have sued the auto maker claiming crashes were the result of faulty electronics.

NHTSA has received more than 3,000 complaints of sudden acceleration in Toyotas, including some dating to early last decade, according to a report the agency compiled in March. The incidents include 75 fatal crashes involving 93 deaths.

However, NHTSA has been able to verify only one of those fatal crashes was caused by a problem with the vehicle, according to information the agency provided to the National Academy of Sciences. That accident last Aug. 28, which killed a California highway patrolman and three passengers in a Lexus, was traced to a floor mat that trapped the gas pedal in the depressed position.

Toyota has recalled more than eight million cars globally to fix floor mats and sticky accelerators.

A NHTSA spokeswoman declined to confirm the results from the data recorders. She said the agency was continuing to investigate the Toyota accidents and wouldn’t be prepared to comment fully on the probe until a broader study is completed in conjunction with NASA, which is expected to take months.

Transportation Department officials, however, have said publicly that they have yet to find any electronic problems in Toyota cars.

Daniel Smith, NHTSA’s associate administrator for enforcement, told a panel of the National Academy of Sciences last month that the agency’s sudden-acceleration probe had yet to find any car defects beyond those identified by the company: pedals entrapped by floor mats, and “sticky” accelerator pedals that are slow to return to idle.

“In spite of our investigations, we have not actually been able yet to find a defect” in electronic throttle-control systems, Mr. Smith told the scientific panel, which is looking into potential causes of sudden acceleration.

“We’re bound and determined that if it exists we’re going to find it,” he added. “But as yet, we haven’t found it.”

Toyota officials haven’t been briefed on NHTSA’s findings, but they corroborate its own tests, said Mike Michels, the chief spokesman for Toyota Motor Sales. Toyota’s downloads of event data recorders have found evidence of sticky pedals and pedal entrapment as well as driver error, which is characterized by no evidence of the brakes being depressed during an impact.

Some company officials say they are informally aware of the NHTSA results. But Toyota President Akio Toyoda has said the company won’t blame customers for its problems as part of its public-relations response.

Toyota is still trying to repair damage to its reputation caused as much by disclosures that the company hid knowledge of safety problems with its vehicles as by the reports of sudden acceleration.

NHTSA levied a $16.4 million fine against Toyota earlier this year for failing to notify the agency in a timely manner about its sticky-accelerator issue. Toyota’s handling of a rash of safety complaints involving high-profile models such as the hybrid Toyota Prius has prompted Congress to consider a far-reaching overhaul of U.S. auto-safety laws.

Last week, Toyota announced it had taken steps to improve its vehicle quality, including moving 1,000 engineers into a new group that will try to pin down problems. The Japanese auto maker also will extend development times by at least four weeks on new models to do more testing and will cut down on the use of contract engineers.Toyota showed reporters the inner workings of its labs, including how it has been testing its electronic throttle control module to find any malfunctions. The system is controlled by a main computer and has a second computer as a backup if the first fails. In either instance, failures should be noted in the car’s main computer and result in engine power being cut.

The car maker also has tested its vehicles’ responses to strong electromagnetic radiation, such as the waves generated by cellphones and radio towers, which some critics have said could be causing a malfunction. The only interference engineers have encountered after bombarding cars with electromagnetic waves is static on the car radio.

U.S. Reps. Bart Stupak (D., Mich.) and Henry Waxman (D., Calif.) have been critical of Toyota’s efforts to track down alternative causes of unintended acceleration. They have said Toyota has been slow to react or evasive. Toyota has said it is doing everything in its power to respond to both Congress and customer complaints.

—Josh Mitchell contributed
to this article.


Relatively Few Toyota Complaints

RELATIVELY FEW COMPLAIN ABOUT TOYOTA

Bottom of Form

By Ben Rooney, staff reporter

2010 Toyota Corolla

NEW YORK (CNNMoney.com) — Despite a torrent of high-profile recalls that have tarnished Toyota [1]’s once stellar reputation, a study published Wednesday reveals that the automaker actually gets fewer customer complaints per car than the majority of its competitors.

Edmunds.com reviewed more than 200,000 complaints filed with the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration
(NHTSA) over the last
decade and found that Toyota ranked 17th among the top 20 automakers in the overall number of complaints per vehicle sold.

The results come amid a series of recalls totaling more than 8.1 million Toyotas worldwide, including 400,000 of the popular 2010 Prius [2] hybrid for problems associated with sticking brake pedals, software glitches and faulty floor mats.

The study was based on the percentage of complaints each automaker received versus the total number of vehicles they sold in the United States between 2001 and 2010.

As a result, British carmaker Land Rover [3] had the highest proportion of complaints relative to the number of cars it sold. The company received 0.6% of the total complaints in the database, while its sales amounted to only 0.1% of all new cars sold in the United States.

Meanwhile, Toyota had 9.1% of all the complaints in the database.
But the company was number 17 on the list because its sales made up 13.5% of the U.S. market.

According to the study, Toyota had fewer complaints than its American rivals. Ford [4] was number 10 on the list, while General Motors [5] came in at number 11.

The only automakers to receive fewer complaints than Toyota were Mercedes-Benz [6], Porsche [7] and the Mercedes-made Smart Car [8].

Among the other automakers that ranked high on the list were Suzuki [9] and Isuzu, which came in at numbers 2 and 3 respectively. German automaker Volkswagen [10] came in at number 4.

The complaints lodged against Toyota ranged from minor problems with lighting to more serious issues such as sudden acceleration and difficulty steering. But the study did not rate the reported incidences for severity.

Edmunds.com said that it found some unreliable reports in the database, including one complaint indicating that
99 people had died
in one vehicle as a result of an accident. It also said that about 10% of the complaints appeared to be duplicates.

Quality control: Not just Toyota’s problem

While the issues raised by Toyota’s recent recalls shouldn’t be overlooked, quality control concerns are apparent across the entire automobile industry, said Jeremy Anwyl, Edmunds.com chief executive.

“A broader view shows that consumer complaints reflect an industry issue, not just a Toyota issue,” said Anwyl. “It is no longer an option for car companies to dismiss consumer complaints, even if the event is difficult to replicate or diagnose.”

Some automakers assume that customer complaints are the result of driver error and not necessarily a reflection of design problems, said Jeannine Fallon, an Edmunds.com analyst.

“It depends on the culture of the car company,”
she said. “But it’s
clear now that Toyota has not had very many conversations with NHTSA.”

Akio Toyoda writes The Washington Post

washingtonpost.com


Toyota‘s plan to repair its public image

By Akio Toyoda
Tuesday, February 9, 2010; A17

More than 70 years ago, Toyota entered the auto business based on a simple, but powerful, principle: that Toyota would build the highest-quality, safest and most reliable automobiles in the world. The company has always put the needs of our customers first and made the constant improvement of our vehicles a top priority. That is why 80 percent of all Toyotas sold in the United States over the past 20 years are still on the road today.

When consumers purchase a Toyota, they are not simply purchasing a car, truck or van. They are placing their trust in our company. The past few weeks, however, have made clear that Toyota has not lived up to the high standards we set for ourselves. More important, we have not lived up to the high standards you have come to expect from us. I am deeply disappointed by that and apologize. As the president of Toyota, I take personal responsibility. That is why I am personally leading the effort to restore trust in our word and in our products.

For much of Toyota’s history, we have ensured the quality and reliability of our vehicles by placing a device called an andon cord on every production line — and empowering any team member to halt production if there’s an assembly problem. Only when the problem is resolved does the line begin to move again.

Two weeks ago, I pulled the andon cord for our company. I ordered production of eight models in five plants across North America temporarily stopped so that we could focus on fixing our customers’ vehicles that might be affected by sticking accelerator pedals. Today, Toyota team members and dealers across North America are working around the clock to repair all recalled vehicles.

But to regain the trust of American drivers and their families, more is needed. We are taking responsibility for our mistakes, learning from them and acting immediately to address the concerns of consumers and independent government regulators.

First, I have launched a top-to-bottom review of our global operations to ensure that problems of this magnitude do not happen again and that we not only meet but exceed the high safety standards that have defined our long history. As part of this, we will establish an Automotive Center of Quality Excellence in the United States, where a team of our top engineers will focus on strengthening our quality management and quality control across North America.

Second, to ensure that our quality-control operations are in line with best industry practices, we will ask a blue-ribbon safety advisory group composed of respected outside experts in quality management to independently review our operations and make sure that we have eliminated any deficiencies in our processes. The findings of these experts will be made available to the public, as will Toyota’s responses to these findings.

Third, we fully understand that we need to more aggressively investigate complaints we hear directly from consumers and move more quickly to address any safety issues we identify. That is what we are doing by addressing customer concerns about the Prius and Lexus HS250h anti-lock brake systems.

We also are putting in place steps to do a better job within Toyota of sharing important quality and safety information across our global operations. This shortcoming contributed to the current situation. With respect to sticking accelerator pedals, we failed to connect the dots between problems in Europe and problems in the United States because the European situation related primarily to right-hand-drive vehicles.

Toyota will increase its outreach to government agencies charged with protecting the safety of motorists and passengers. I have spoken with U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood and given him my personal assurance that lines of communications with safety agencies and regulators will be kept open, that we will communicate more frequently and that we will be more vigilant in responding to those officials on all matters.

In recent years, much has been written about what we call “the Toyota Way” — the values and principles at the heart of our company. Chief among these is our unwavering commitment to continuous improvement: going to the source of a problem and fixing it. While problems with our cars have been rare over the years, the issues that Toyota is addressing today are by far the most serious we have ever faced.

But great companies learn from their mistakes, and we know that we have to win back the trust of our customers by adhering to the very values on which that trust was first built. The hundreds of thousands of men and women at Toyota operations worldwide — including the 172,000 team members and dealers in North America — are among the best in the auto industry. Whatever problems have occurred within our company, the strength and commitment to fix them resides within our company as well.

You have my commitment that Toyota will revitalize the simple but powerful principle that has guided us for 50 years: Toyota will build the highest-quality, safest and most reliable automobiles in the world.

The writer is president of Toyota Motor Co.

BrionStapp@interstatetoyota.com

2010 Toyota Prius vs. Honda Insight

Prius vs. Insight: A clash of corporate cultures

Hans Greimel
Automotive News
May 18, 2009 – 12:01 am ET

TOKYO — Few cars better embody the wide divergence in the corporate cultures of Toyota and Honda than these two hybrids.

In one corner is the Honda Insight — a case study in utilitarian expedience. It’s powered by a simplified four-banger with an electric motor adding just enough oomph to cut down on trips to the pump. It sports a plasticky, no-frills interior and poaches parts from sister models.

In the other corner is the redesigned Toyota Prius — a paragon of engineering excellence. It pushes the envelope with an ingenious planetary gear transmission, outstanding fuel economy and snazzy options such as solar panels. The car that made hybrids famous carries a first-class sticker price to match.

For better and worse, the redesigned Prius and Insight exude the distinct corporate identities that gave them birth. The result is as much a battle of the automakers’ business philosophies as a two-car rivalry.

Faultless Toyota Motor Corp. reached new technological heights but drifted into cost creep, a risky trend in a recession. Penny-pinching Honda Motor Co. did a lot with a little, churning out a low-budget hybrid that can’t match its rival’s specs.

Different strokes
The Insight and Prius highlight personality differences between Honda and Toyota.
Honda Insight Toyota Prius
Objective Affordable sticker Fuel-efficiency tour de force
Price No discounting No discounting
Drivetrain Simplify current engine Go high-tech for more power
Bottom line Practicality with compromise Perfection at a price
Pricing policies

image

2010 Toyota Prius

The redesigned 2010 Toyota Prius goes on sale in the United States in late May with a base price of $22,750, including freight. The price of the top-trim Prius will be $28,020. Later this year, a stripped-down base model will be offered for $21,750.

The Insight, by contrast, starts at $20,470 and climbs to $23,000, fully loaded. Toyota’s aggressive pricing of the third-generation Prius may pressure margins again. Says Takaki Nakanishi, an auto industry analyst at JPMorgan: “It will be difficult to make a profit at the lower grades.”

Honda and Toyota share a reverence for the principles of kaizen — or continuous improvement — and just-in-time manufacturing. But their subtle differences are best summed in Honda’s pragmatism vs. Toyota’s perfectionism.

Pragmatism vs. perfectionism

image

Honda Insight

“Honda always has to prioritize what they can and can’t do because they just don’t have the resources of Toyota,” says Tatsuo Yoshida, an auto analyst with UBS Securities in Tokyo. “If they tried to follow Toyota on development, it would be like committing suicide.”

Take mileage. Honda was satisfied with a respectable EPA rating of 40 mpg city/43 highway for the Insight. But the Prius reached for and attained an eye-popping 51/48.

Honda got there by simplifying an existing 1.3-liter engine to two modes of variable valve timing, instead of three. It chose a one-clutch drivetrain instead of a two-clutch version. That reduced the efficiency of regenerative braking but was cheaper.

The lowest trim-level Insight lacks such staples as cruise control and stability control.

In aerodynamics, the Insight has a 0.28 drag coefficient. Good, but not even as good as the Honda Civic‘s. Yasunari Seki, the chief engineer, was ordered to poach body structure from the Honda Fit compact, a move that limited aerodynamic improvements and also resulted in ho-hum styling. In fact, attention to styling is such an afterthought at Honda that the company doesn’t have a company wide design chief.

The pursuit of expedience is echoed in Honda’s aversion to full-sized trucks and V-8 Acura offerings. Honda can’t be all things to all people so it compromises with the car-based Honda Ridgeline and a V-6 Acura. They may not be best-in-class, but they leverage Honda’s strengths.

“We believe it fits with the culture of our company, where we want to build environmentally friendly cars that get good gas mileage,” says Dick Colliver, who retired recently as executive vice president of sales at American Honda Motor Co. “You don’t have to have a V-8 engine to be Tier 1.”

High-tech luxury

Meanwhile, Akihiko Otsuka, Toyota’s chief engineer, was striving to make his Prius the world’s greenest car. The solution was cutting-edge.

Otsuka used a bigger engine to get better mileage at high speeds. He eliminated drive belts for the air conditioning compressor and water pump, making them electric. He devised an exhaust-heat recapture system to help keep the engine operating at optimal efficiency.

Otsuka also improved drag to 0.25, from 0.26. The new Prius was the world’s slickest production car until Mercedes unveiled its new E-class coupe at 0.24.

The Prius brims with luxury features, most famously the gimmicky solar panels whose sole task is to run a ventilation system to cool the cabin when the car is parked in the sun.

Toyota’s approach mirrors the whole-hog ambition that thrust it into the full-sized pickup segment with the Toyota Tundra and into premium sedans with the Lexus lineup.

“It’s part of Toyota culture to always improve on what it’s already done,” says Chris Richter, of CLSA Asia-Pacific Markets. “It wants to position itself as higher end.”

Honda re-engineered the Insight’s hybrid system to cost 40 percent less than the previous-generation hybrid drivetrain, used in the current Civic Hybrid. Toyota was able to shave 35 percent off the costs of the current generation. But Otsuka missed the internal target of halving the cost.

Cash For Clunkers Automotive Stimulus

I found an interesting read about a proposed bill about getting older, less fuel efficient vehicles off the road. I hope you enjoy the information.

Cash for Clunkers Car Buying Stimulus Bill//

Cash for Clunkers Car Buying Stimulus Bill

Cash for Clunkers FAQ
By Philip Reed, Senior Consumer Advice Editor

The Cash for Clunkers bill is a proposed federal program that would encourage consumers to trade in gas-guzzlers for new cars that get better fuel economy. Modeled after several programs that have already been successfully implemented in Europe, similar legislation is currently making its way through the U.S. Congress. The program would offer vouchers for consumers, allowing them to save thousands of dollars on a new-car purchase if the new vehicle meets improved mpg requirements.

Edmunds.com has put together this Cash for Clunkers FAQ page to track the program as it comes to fruition, and we’ll be updating this space regularly as new information becomes available.

Though the legislation hasn’t yet passed, we’ve provided some details of the current version of the proposed Cash for Clunkers program making its way through the House. The program would offer vouchers that allow consumers to save up to $4,500 on a new-car purchase. There are also various credits, in the form of vouchers, for trucks and work trucks. The earlier versions of the program that received a lot of media coverage have been reworked, with several objectionable elements having been jettisoned. A former version of the bill stated that the used cars would be crushed, but now the engines and transmissions will be shredded.

Though information from Congress suggests that the program may stimulate anywhere from 500,000 to 1 million new-car purchases, Edmunds.com believes that if properly implemented, the program may stimulate up to 3 million new-car sales. The proposed bill still needs to pass through Congress (and it is likely to be modified again in the Senate), but the president has already expressed his approval of recent drafts of the bill. The House Committee on Energy and Commerce has put together a fact sheet (see below) to detail the key elements of the proposed legislation. We’ve followed that with an FAQ that we will continue to update as details emerge.

Committee on Energy and Commerce Fact Sheet: Cash for Clunkers
Consumers may trade in their old, gas-guzzling vehicles and receive vouchers worth up to $4,500 to help pay for new, more fuel-efficient cars and trucks. The program will be authorized for up to one year and provide for approximately 1 million new car or truck purchases. The agreement divides these new cars and trucks into four categories. Miles-per-gallon figures below refer to EPA “window sticker” values.

Passenger car or minivan: The old vehicle must get 18 mpg or less city/highway combined. New passenger cars or minivans with mileage of at least 22 mpg are eligible for vouchers. If the mileage of the new car is at least 4 mpg higher than the old vehicle, the voucher will be worth $3,500. If the mileage of the new car is at least 10 mpg higher than the old vehicle, the voucher will be worth $4,500.

Light-duty truck: The old vehicle must get 18 mpg or less city/highway combined. New light trucks or SUVs with mileage of at least 18 mpg are eligible for vouchers. If the mileage of the new truck or SUV is at least 2 mpg higher than the old truck, the voucher will be worth $3,500. If the mileage of the new truck or SUV is at least 5 mpg higher than the old truck, the voucher will be worth $4,500.

Large light-duty truck: New large trucks (pickup trucks and vans weighing between 6,000 and 8,500 pounds) with mileage of at least 15 mpg are eligible for vouchers. If the mileage of the new truck is at least 1 mpg higher than the old truck, the voucher will be worth $3,500. If the mileage of the new truck is at least 2 mpg higher than the old truck, the voucher will be worth $4,500.

Work truck: Under the agreement, consumers can trade in a pre-2002 work truck (defined as a pickup truck or cargo van weighing from 8,500-10,000 pounds) and receive a voucher worth $3,500 for a new work truck in the same or smaller weight class. There will be a finite number of these vouchers, based on this vehicle class’ market share. There are no EPA mileage measures for these trucks; however, because newer models are cleaner than older models, the age requirement ensures that the trade will improve environmental quality. Consumers can also “trade down,” receiving a $3,500 voucher for trading in an older work truck and purchasing a smaller light-duty truck weighing from 6,000-8,500 pounds.

Summary of Cash for Clunkers Agreement
Minimum Fuel Economy for New Vehicle $3,500 Voucher $4,500 Voucher
Passenger Car or minivan 22 mpg (EPA combined) Mileage improvement of at least 4 mpg Mileage improvement of at least 10 mpg
Light-duty truck 18 mpg (EPA combined) Mileage improvement of at least 2 mpg Mileage improvement of at least 5 mpg
Large light-duty truck
(6,000-8,500 pounds)
15 mpg (EPA combined) Mileage improvement of at least 1 mpg or trade-in of a work truck Mileage improvement of at least 2 mpg
Work truck
(8,500-10,000 pounds)
Trade-in must be at least pre-2002

FAQ

How much are the vouchers worth? This will depend on the car you are turning in and the type of car you buy. In general, if the improvement in fuel economy between your old car and the car you buy is 10 mpg (combined highway mileage according to the EPA), the maximum credit will be $4,500. The requirement for improvement in fuel economy for trucks is lower. For specifics, see the above chart.

How old does my car need to be? There is no age restriction on vehicles eligible for trade in. For work trucks however, it is any built before 2002.We anticipate that most cars traded in will likely be model-year 2000 and older.

What types of vehicles qualify? In general, this bill aims to take polluting gas-guzzlers off the road. The vehicle must have a federal combined city/highway fuel economy of 18 or less miles per gallon. This means that many American-made cars and trucks will be eligible for vouchers toward the purchase of new vehicles. The categories of vehicles that will qualify fall into four classes: passenger cars, light-duty trucks, large light-duty trucks (6,000-8,500 pounds) and work trucks (8,500-10,000 pounds).

What kind of mpg will the new vehicle need to get? Different levels of improvement are required for each type of vehicle. In passenger cars, if mileage is improved by 10 mpg, the $4,500 voucher is awarded; if fuel economy is improved by only 4 mpg, the $3,500 voucher is awarded. The mileage improvement levels and voucher amounts for the different classes of trucks are listed in the chart above.

The proposal mentions a one-year time limit. Is there a cap on the number of vehicles? The bill is written to provide vouchers for 1 million purchases. However, we are predicting that the program has the potential to stimulate up to 3 million sales. For this reason, it is important for consumers who are interested in taking advantage of this program to track the progress of the bill and apply for the program as soon as funds become available.

How long do I need to have owned the vehicle I’m trading in? The vehicle must be registered in your name and in use for at least one year.

If I have an older car that is in good running condition, or a classic car, is it mandatory for me to turn it in? No. This program is completely voluntary.

What happens to the car that you trade in? The old car is given to a salvage operator. Vital engine and transmission components, that would otherwise pollute more than a modern engine, are destroyed so that the car does not end up on the road again. The salvage operator can then sell off any remaining parts on the vehicle. The destroyed engine and transmission can also be sold to recyclers.

How will this affect used-car values? Since the “clunkers” will be taken off the road, there will be fewer older vehicles in the marketplace. However, our analysts don’t expect this program to drastically affect used-car values.

Where do I find the mpg numbers to see if my vehicle qualifies for the Cash for Clunkers vouchers? The EPA’s combined mileage will be used. This is a combination of the highway and city mileage for vehicles. Models prior to 2008 will use the converted MPG numbers which take into account the new EPA testing methods. This information can be found on the window sticker of the car or at fueleconomy.gov.

What kind of vehicles qualify as light-duty and large light-duty trucks? Trucks qualify based on class and vehicle weight. For example, the Ford F-150 would be considered a light-duty truck. If you are considering taking advantage of this program, look up your vehicle on Edmunds.com and determine its weight. If it is between 6,000 and 8,500 pounds and gets less than 15 mpg, you have a large light-duty truck and will need to buy a truck that improves your fuel economy by 1 mpg for a $3,500 voucher. If you select a truck that improves fuel economy by at least 2 mpg, you will qualify for the $4,500 voucher. A work truck is classified as being between 8,500 and 10,000 pounds. The only requirement for this class is that the trade-in vehicle needs to have been built before model-year 2002.

As the program details emerge, check back here for a complete list of eligible vehicles.

When is the program expected to go into effect, and will it be retroactive? The language of the bill hasn’t been finalized, but the program is expected to have a retroactive date of March 30, 2009. However, you must be able to prove that you were the registered owner of the vehicle and that the old car has been scrapped. Passage of this bill could come before June and the vouchers would be available shortly thereafter. The current House legislation has been folded into a broader energy package and will be in committee for another two weeks as of this writing. Then it goes to the Senate, where it undoubtedly will go through changes.

Where will the money for vouchers come from? Since President Obama wants this to move as quickly as possible, it is likely that the money will come from the already approved Troubled Asset Relief Program (TARP) funds and the economic stimulus package.

Does the voucher augment or replace what the dealer would give me for my trade-in? The money you receive from the Cash for Clunkers program will act as your trade in value. It cannot be combined with the dealer’s trade in offer. This program is primarily designed to inflate the value of older vehicles worth less than $4,500.

Is there a limit on the price of the vehicle purchased with Cash for Clunkers vouchers? Vehicles purchased with the vouchers must have an MSRP of $45,000 or less.

How will the program be tracked? Via dealers or the DMV? Little information has been made available on this aspect of the bill. It is likely, though, that the Vehicle Identification Number (VIN) will be the prime tool in verifying information on the trade-in vehicle such as model year, engine size and the corresponding EPA-rated fuel-economy levels. The government has numerous databases with information on cars that are tracked through their VIN.

How will you get the money toward the trade-in? An electronic transfer from the government to the dealer will be issued once a vehicle is determined to be qualified for the Cash for Clunkers program. The voucher amount would be credited as all or part of the down payment on a qualifying new car.

Will it apply to used-car purchases? The final details of the bill are not yet available. However, it has always been assumed that the vouchers will only apply to new car purchases.

What if you’re leasing a vehicle and wish to trade it in? Again, final details are not available. But it is unlikely that consumers who are currently leasing vehicles will qualify for this program.

What if you wish to lease the new vehicle? In this case, it appears likely that the voucher could be applied to a leased vehicle as a “capitalized cost adjustment.” This would lower the price of the vehicle and thus reduce the monthly payment of a lease.

Stimulus Package Auto Tax Deduction Expires 12/31/2009

Update! The automotive sales tax deduction expires at the end of December! Read below for details!

So here is the official release of the Economic Stimulus Package regarding auto sales tax deductions. I hope you find all of the information you need and yes this does apply to new Toyotas!

February 17, 2009
CONSUMER AUTO INCENTIVE INCLUDED IN FINAL STIMULUS BILL (H.R. 1) “AMERICAN RECOVERY AND REINVESTMENT ACT OF 2009”
***NOTE: INCENTIVE EFFECTIVE UPON PRESIDENT’S SIGNATURE***
Today, the President is expected to sign the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009. Upon becoming law, car buyers will be permitted to deduct sales/excise tax from their yearly income tax bill for vehicles purchased before the end of this year.
What Taxes are Deductible? 1

State Motor Vehicle Sales

Local Motor Vehicle Sales

Motor Vehicle Excise Taxes
What Customers Qualify for the Deduction?

Individual customers with modified adjusted gross income of less than $125,000 or joint-filers making less than $250,000 a year in 2009 would qualify for the deduction.

Deductible as an “above the line” (for itemizers and non-itemizers) deduction on federal tax return.
Effective Date

New vehicle purchases shall apply to purchases on or after the date of enactment
(expected February 16, 2009) until Dec. 31st, 2009.
What New Vehicles Qualify for the Deduction?

Any new vehicle under 8,500 pounds gross vehicle weight.

New vehicles of any model year – when the original use commences with the taxpayer.

Any vehicle sold for under $49,500 qualifies for the full deduction. Consumers may deduct sales taxes on the first $49,500 of any vehicle sold above this price.
THIS IS A GENERALIZED SUMMARY. For more specific information on eligible customers, taxes and applicability, dealers are encouraged to consult with a qualified tax attorney or professional.
1 “For purposes of this section, the term ‘qualified motor vehicle taxes’ means any state or local sales or excise tax imposed on the purchase of a qualified motor vehicle.”- (Text of H.R. 1)
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New Toyota Prius Features

Ok everybody, I have been away from the blog but I promise I will be here on a regular basis. Here is some cool stuff about the new Prius.


EMBARGO DATE: JANUARY 12, 2009 AT 11:30 A.M. EASTERN TIME

TMS – – 003 – – 09

TOYOTA REVEALS ALL-NEW PRIUS

DETROIT, January 12, 2009 — Toyota Motor Sales (TMS), U.S.A., Inc.,

unveiled the all-new 50-mile-per gallon rated third-generation Prius hybrid vehicle

today at the 2009 North American International Auto show.

Celebrated as the benchmark for cars of the future, the Prius has

delivered superior fuel economy and ultra-low emissions to more than one million

owners worldwide for more than 10 years.

The midsize third-generation 2010 Prius will offer even better mileage

ratings, enhanced performance, and innovative design features. It will be quieter,

roomier, and equipped with advanced standard and available features such as a

moonroof with solar panels, four driving modes, Intelligent Parking Assist (IPA)

and steering wheel touch controls that display on the instrument panel.

An Eco-Icon

The first-generation Prius entered the market in 1997 as the world’s first

mass-produced hybrid. The name Prius, “to go before” in Latin, became symbolic

of a car that was launched even before environmental awareness had become a

mainstream social issue.

From the beginning, Toyota’s full-hybrid system was developed in-house

and has become a driving force behind advanced vehicle technology. The

company’s exclusive Hybrid Synergy Drive System was introduced in 2004 on

the second-generation Prius. Since then, more than 670,000 have been sold in

the U.S.

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Toyota Prius 2-2-2-2

In designing the new, third-generation Prius, Toyota engineers combined

a careful refinement of existing systems with an aggressive measure of new

technology necessary for the future of automobiles.

Fuel Economy and Environmental Performance

The new Prius will be built using processes that reduce pollution in every

stage of vehicle life, from production and driving, through to disposal.

The third-generation Prius extends its record of continuous improvement

in fuel economy. The first-generation Prius, which was rated 41 EPA combined

mpg, was replaced by the current model, which is EPA rated at 46 mpg,

combined city/highway. Using a combination of technologies, fuel efficiency was

increased to an estimated 50 miles per gallon for the new Prius.

A larger and more powerful 1.8-liter Atkinson-cycle, four-cylinder engine

will power the new Prius. Contrary to conventional wisdom, the larger engine

actually helps improve highway mileage. By making more torque, the new engine

can run at lower average rpm on the highway. When operating at lower rpm, the

new engine uses less fuel. Mileage is especially improved in cold-start conditions

and at higher speeds.

Use of an electric water pump and a new exhaust gas recirculation (EGR)

system also contribute to the engine’s efficiency. The 1.8-liter Prius engine is the

first Toyota power plant that requires no belts under the hood for better fuel

economy and less potential maintenance.

A multi-information display panel that monitors fuel and energy

consumption is standard. It provides feedback on the Prius’ efficiency using

three different displays to help the driver acquire economical driving habits.

Unlike most other hybrid vehicles available, Prius has been a “full” hybrid

since introduction. This allows it to run on engine alone, battery alone, or a

combination of both. The system blends the best of parallel hybrid and series

hybrid designs to achieve the ability to operate on the electric mode alone, and to

charge the batteries while the car is running.

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Toyota Prius 3-3-3-3

The patented Hybrid Synergy Drive system in the 2010 Prius is 90 percent

newly-developed with significant improvements over previous models.

The transaxle is lighter in weight and reduces torque losses by as much

as 20 percent compared to the previous model.

The inverter, which converts direct current to alternating current, has a

new direct cooling system to reduce size and weight.

Taken together, the inverter, motor and transaxle are smaller and 20

percent lighter.

A newly developed electronically controlled regenerative braking system

has been adopted, with control logic optimized to enhance regeneration.

The new Prius will offer three alternative driving modes. EV-Drive Mode

allows driving on battery power alone at low speeds for about a mile, if conditions

permit. There is also a Power Mode, which increases sensitivity to throttle input

for a sportier feel, and an Eco Mode, which helps the driver achieve their best

mileage.

Cutting Edge Styling

In designing the new Prius, aerodynamic performance was an important

factor. The goal was to create a beautiful silhouette, while not compromising

function. Designers preserved the dynamic triangle form of the

current model–instantly recognizable as a Prius–but made alterations to the

overall profile, pillar position and angle. The front pillar, extended forward, helps

refine the performance-focusing, shaped form.

The overall height of the Prius is the same, but the roof profile is altered by

moving the top of the roof 3.9 inches to the rear. This emphasizes the wedge

shape, and also allows for enhanced rear headroom and improved

aerodynamics.

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2010 Toyota Prius 4-4-4-4

The design of the new Prius’ front and rear corners are sharp, sporty and

aerodynamic. Strong side character lines, rising from front to rear, define the

glazed geometric shape. Viewed from the rear, wider rear treads provide a solid,

firmly rooted stance.

Dimensionally, the new Prius has the same wheelbase as the current

generation. Overall length is slightly increased by 0.6 inches, in part by moving

the front cowl forward.

World’s Lowest Cd

The new Prius received more wind tunnel hours of testing than any other

Toyota in history, resulting in the cleanest aerodynamic profile of any massproduced

vehicle in the world. By focusing on the shape of the body, underfloor,

wheelhouse liner and shape of the wheels, the designers of the new Prius were

able to reduce the coefficient of drag (Cd) value to 0.25, compared to 0.26 for the

previous model. The airflow under the car was studied extensively. Engineers

made changes to the shape of the fender liner, front surface of the underfloor,

and added a fin at the rear floor cover to increase linear stability.

Advanced Equipment For a New Era

An available sliding glass moonroof is packaged with solar panels, located

over the rear seating area, that power a new ventilation system. This solar

powered ventilation system uses an electrically powered air circulation fan that

does not require engine assist. The system prevents the interior air temperature

from rising while the vehicle is parked, making the cool-down time shorter when

the driver returns to the vehicle, thus reducing the use of air conditioning.

The remote air-conditioning system is the first system in the world to

function on battery-power alone and that can be remotely operated, so the driver

can adjust the interior temperature for comfort before getting in the car.

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2010 Toyota Prius 5-5-5-5

Reducing the vehicle’s power consumption, available LED (light emitting

diode) lamps are used for low beams and also in the tail and stop lamps. Air

conditioning, a major energy drain, has been re-engineered to increase efficiency

and cool-down performance. In addition, an exhaust heat recirculation system

reduces heat waste by warming engine coolant during cold startup, for improved

performance. It also heats up the passenger cabin more efficiently.

Enhanced Vehicle Performance

The next-generation Prius is built on a new platform, which enables

improved handling stability, quieter operation, and collision safety. The

suspension consists of front struts and a rear intermediate beam design, as

before, but handling stability is advanced by improving the stabilizer layout,

higher caster angle and tuning the bushing characteristics. Disc brakes are now

used on all four corners, replacing the front disc/rear drum brakes in the current

model.

Weight was saved through use of aluminum in the hood, rear hatch, front

suspension axle and brake caliper and super high-tensile steel in the rocker

inner, center pillar, and roof reinforcement. To meet customer expectations for

everyday performance, zero-to-60 acceleration has been improved to 9.8

seconds, more than a second faster, in internal testing.

Better-performing sound insulation, working with improved vibration

damping, has been installed in various locations to reduce road noise.

Functional Interior Is Bigger on the Inside

Proving that small changes add up to big gains, the cargo area of the new

Prius was expanded 0.4 inches in length and 2.2 inches in width by using a new

and an improved layout of the battery cooling unit.

Rear seat legroom is enhanced by a new space-saving contoured frontseat

design.

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2010 Toyota Prius 6-6-6-6

Viewed from the cockpit, the center cluster smoothly flows from the

instrument panel to the console. Handy storage space has been added under the

shift lever by taking advantage of the shift-by-wire system. Simple, fin-type air

vents are consistent with the cabin’s efficient appearance. Judicious use of silver

accents adds a finished, technical feel.

Touch sensors on the steering wheel switches are designed to reduce

driver eye movement for better concentration on the road. When the driver

touches the audio or info switch located on the steering wheel, a duplicate image

is displayed on the instrument panel, directly in front of the driver. This system,

called Touch Tracer, is the first system in the world to allow steering wheel

controls to read out on the instrument panel.

The ECO indicator on the Multi-Informational Display (MID) provides driver

feedback for lower fuel consumption.

In pursuit of developing various advanced technologies aimed at realizing

sustainable mobility, Toyota will use plant-derived, carbon-neutral plastics in the

2010 Prius. The newly-developed plastics, known as “ecological plastic,” will be

used in the seat cushion foam, cowl side trim, inner and outer scuff plates, and

deck trim cover. Ecological plastic emits less CO2 during a product lifecycle

(from manufacturing to disposal) than plastic made solely from petroleum; it also

helps reduce petroleum use.

Safety Enhancements

The new Prius was designed to comply with class-top level collision safety

performance in each global region of sale, and to accommodate increasingly

strict safety requirements in the future.

In addition to advanced driver and front passenger Supplemental Restraint

System (SRS) airbags front and rear side curtain airbags, driver and passenger

seat-mounted side airbags and driver’s knee airbag are standard equipment.

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2010 Toyota Prius 7-7-7-7

Active headrests are used in both front seats to reduce the possibility of

whiplash in a collision. Anti-lock Brake System (ABS), Electronic Brake

Distribution (EBD), Brake Assist (BA), electronic traction control (TRAC) and

Vehicle Stability Control (VSC) are included with Toyota’s standard Star Safety

System.

Dynamic Radar Cruise Control system, using advanced millimeter wave

radar, is an available option. The system also enables Lane Keep Assist, which

helps the driver stay safely within the lane, and the Pre-Collision System, which

retracts seatbelts and applies the brakes in certain conditions when a crash is

unavoidable.

Next-generation Intelligent Parking Assist features simplified settings to

help guide the car into parking spaces.

A backup monitor, which provides a view of rear obstacles when reverse

is engaged, is available with an optional voice-activated navigation system.

Safety Connect, Toyota’s first safety and security service, includes automatic

collision notification, stolen vehicle locator and an SOS call button. Safety

Connect will be available a few months after launch.

The development of the Prius has required applications for over 1,000

patents filed across the world, of which 292 are U.S. applications.

Pricing for the 2010 Prius will be announced shortly before it goes on sale

late spring.

# # #

2010 Toyota Prius 8-8-8-8

2010 PRUIS PRELIMINARY SPECIFICATIONS

POWERTRAIN

1.8-liter four-cylinder engine with VVT-i

Engine horsepower: 98 hp @ 5,200 rpm

Engine torque: 105 lb-ft @ 4,000 rpm

Electric motor: Permanent magnet synchronous motor

Electric motor power output: 80 hp/153 lb-ft torque

Hybrid system net horsepower: 134 hp

Emission rating: SULEV (with AT-PZEV)

Electronically controlled continuously variable transmission

Drive System: Front-wheel-drive

Hybrid battery pack: Nickel-metal hydride

Estimated fuel economy: 50 mpg (combined)*

DIMENSIONS (inches)

Overall Length: 175.6

Overall Width: 68.7

Overall Height: 58.7

Wheelbase: 106.3

Ground clearance: 5.5

Coefficient of Drag: 0.25

Wheels: 15-inch alloy wheels

17-inch alloy wheels (optional)

Tire Size: 15-inch: 195/65R15

17-inch: 215/45R17 (optional)

Seating Capacity: 5

EPA class rating: Midsize

* Preliminary figure based on Toyota’s internal testing. Actual mileage will vary.