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.


2-second Prius video causes headache for ABC News

By DAVID BAUDER

NEW YORK (AP) – For the want of a better two-second picture of a tachometer, ABC News has called into question its reporting on acceleration problems with Toyota vehicles.

The network’s handling of a Feb. 22 “World News” story about potential problems with computer systems in Toyotas has created ethical questions and intensified bitter feelings the besieged automaker already had toward ABC.

ABC has admitted to a misjudgment and swapped out the brief dashboard video in its report, which continues to be available online. Its story illustrated a report by David Gilbert, a Southern Illinois University professor who suggested that a design flaw in Toyotas might leave a short-circuit that could cause sudden acceleration undetected by the car’s computer system.

Correspondent Brian Ross'”World News” report showed him driving a Toyota with Gilbert that was rigged to quickly accelerate. Even though he knew it was coming, Ross said the incident left him shaken, and he had a hard time getting the car to come to a stop.

Briefly during the drive, ABC cut to a picture of a tachometer with the needle zooming forward. The impression was that the tachometer was documenting the ride Ross was taking. Instead, that picture was taken from a separate instance where a short-circuit was induced in a parked car.

ABC said that editing was done because it was impossible to get a good picture of the tachometer while the car was moving because the camera was shaking. The camera shot was steady when it was taken in a parked car.

“The tachometer showed the same thing every time,” said ABC News spokeswoman Emily Lenzner.

Toyota spokesman John Hanson disputes that, saying tachometers react much more dramatically when short-circuits happen in a parked car than a car that is moving. Tachometers measure engine speed.

It all points to problems that are created when visual journalists try to alter reality in order to get a better picture.

“Anytime you give the audience any reason to doubt the honesty of the piece, that’s a serious problem,” said Charlotte Grimes, a Syracuse University journalism professor who specializes in ethical issues.

“Do they honestly think that a company like Toyota, with all the resources that it has, would not be looking at these things?” Grimes asked.

Toyota recognized the differences right away: the shot showed the car’s speedometer was at zero, the parking brake was on and no one was using the seat belts – while Ross wore one on the test drive, Hanson said. Online discussion of the differences began almost immediately, and the Web site Gawker.com wrote about it last week.

ABC edited the online version of its story shortly after that story appeared and wrote a note on its Web site explaining why.

“This was a misjudgment made in the editing room,” Lenzner said. “They should have left the shaky shot in. But I want to make clear that the two-second shot that was used did not change the outcome of the report in any way.”

The inserted tachometer shot still didn’t specifically illustrate Ross’ ride. It was from another ride made in order to create different camera angles. A camera person could not have captured the tachometer shot with Ross and Gilbert both in the car, Lenzner said.

Toyota’s Hanson said it was next to impossible for the short circuit detailed by Gilbert to happen in real life. The automaker, which had to recall many of its cars because of problems associated with a depressed gas pedal, held a news conference on Monday to try and refute Gilbert’s study. It depicted similar short circuits in other cars, none of which were detected by the vehicles’ computer system.

Gilbert did not return phone or e-mail messages for comment, and a woman who answered the phone at his home said he was unavailable.

Hanson said he wished Toyota could have been invited to see the simulation conducted by ABC. “Simulation” is a word that brings back tough memories for TV networks: NBC’s news president lost his job in 1993 after it was revealed that for a “Dateline NBC” study about alleged safety problems with General Motors trucks, the network rigged a truck with small explosives for a story. Lenzner said it was ridiculous to compare a two-second tachometer shot to the NBC case.

She said Toyota was given a chance to comment on the story the day it was aired.

“It was not like ABC was trying to alter the footage,” she said. “There was no staging. There was no dramatization. It was an editing mistake.”

Even before this report, relations between Toyota and ABC were on edge. More than 100 Toyota dealerships in the Southeast had agreed last month to pull advertising on local ABC affiliated because they were angry with Ross’ aggressive reporting on the automaker’s problems.

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.”

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.

Hybrid Article in Automotive News

Hybrids 101

Perplexed by plug-ins? Lost when it comes to lithium ion? Start with this sample from our extensive online guide

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Nearly every major automaker plans to roll out environmentally friendly vehicles or add to its current fleet of hybrids or hydrogen-powered cars.

Subscribe to Automotive News

If these plans come to fruition, by around 2012 consumers will be able to choose from:

— Battery-powered electric vehicles.

— Plug-in hybrids.

— Fuel cell vehicles that use hydrogen.

A century ago, cars powered by gasoline, steam and electricity battled for supremacy. Over the next decade, consumers once again will have a number of powertrains and fuels from which to choose. Back then, gasoline-fueled internal combustion engines emerged triumphant. This time there may be more than one winner.

Daimler AG’s Smart microcar shows how Americans’ car-buying patterns are evolving in an era of environmental concerns and fluctuating fuel prices. Smart has proved that some people will plunk down $13,000 to $20,000 for a small, highly maneuverable car best suited to cities rather than highway driving. First-year sales totaled about 25,000.

So a small battery-powered electric car such as the upcoming Mitsubishi i MiEV or Toyota FT-EV could find a place on American roads, even though the driving range will be limited to about 100 miles on a charge.

Hybrid Guide

Because so many automakers are working on advanced-propulsion vehicles and often giving different names to the same technologies, it is difficult to keep track of all that is going on.

So Automotive News has put together a Hybrid Guide explaining the powertrains of the future. We define the terms you see in automakers’ messages. We explain how the different types of hybrids work.

Also included is a list of major automakers’ plans for hybrids and electric vehicles with as much information as is known — such as what kind of hybrid, what kind of batteries it uses and when it will be available.

The full guide is available online at http://www.autonews.com/hybridguide. Here’s a small sampling.

Types of vehicles

Not all hybrids work the same way. There are two types of hybrids: full (or strong) and mild. There also are two different powertrain configurations: series and parallel.

Here’s how they work:

Full hybrid: Found in the Toyota Prius, Ford Fusion Hybrid and Chevrolet Tahoe Hybrid, it can be driven short distances by the electric motor alone. After a percentage of the battery’s charge is used or when the vehicle reaches a certain speed, the gasoline engine turns on, drives the wheels and recharges the battery pack. Under heavy acceleration, both the engine and the motor drive the wheels.

Mild hybrid: Found in the Honda Civic Hybrid, it uses the electric motor to supplement the gasoline engine. In other words, the electric motor reduces the load on the gasoline engine and acts as a stop-start system. The electric motor does not drive the vehicle by itself.

Mild hybrid powertrains are designed in two ways. The first has an electric motor sandwiched between the engine and transmission, as in Honda Motor Co.’s Integrated Motor Assist. General Motors uses another approach in its Belt-Alternator Starter system. It has a combined motor/generator bolted to the front of the engine.

A mild hybrid can improve fuel economy by 20 to 30 percent in some driving conditions. The Saturn Vue offers a good example of how a mild hybrid can improve fuel efficiency. The Vue has a 2.4-liter engine and automatic transmission. The non-hybrid version is EPA rated at 19 mpg city and 26 mpg on the highway. The mild hybrid version, which also has a 2.4-liter engine and automatic transmission, carries EPA ratings of 25 city and 32 mpg highway.

Series hybrid: Propulsion comes entirely from the electric motor or motors. The onboard gasoline engine generates electricity directly for the motor and the battery pack. The Chevrolet Volt is an example of a series hybrid. After 40 miles, the charge in the battery pack runs down and the gasoline engine starts up, turning the generator which makes electricity for the motor and the battery pack. The gasoline engine does not drive the wheels and is not mechanically connected to the wheels. Its sole purpose is to generate electricity.

Parallel hybrid: Found in the hybrid versions of the Ford Escape and Chevrolet Tahoe, it uses both the gasoline engine and electric motor to provide mechanical propulsion to the wheels, either together or independently.

Hybrid terms

Belt-Alternator Starter system, or BAS: A combination of motor/generator that is bolted to the front of the engine and connected to the crankshaft by the fan belt. It provides a slight boost to acceleration, puts energy back into the battery pack on deceleration and gives the vehicle stop-start capability.

Plug-in hybrid: The initial charge for a plug-in hybrid comes from the grid and gives a hybrid vehicle a longer driving range on pure electric power only. Plug-ins are scheduled to be introduced late in 2010, with the Toyota Prius and Chevrolet Volt leading the way. Plug-ins can be either series hybrids such as the Chevrolet Volt or parallel hybrids such as the Toyota Prius.

Range extender: This is a hybrid vehicle that has to be plugged in for its initial charge and has an onboard source of electricity, such as a fuel cell or a gasoline engine that spins a generator. The Chevy Volt is a range-extended, gasoline-electric plug-in series hybrid. Some automakers want to classify their range-extended hybrids as electric cars because if driven 40 miles per day or less, the vehicle will not need its gasoline engine to generate electricity. But under the Society of Automotive Engineers’ definition of a hybrid, the vehicle has two sources of energy for propulsion stored onboard. So a range-extended vehicle is a hybrid.

Two Mode: The marketing name for a hybrid drive system developed by BMW, Chrysler LLC, Daimler and General Motors. Two different Two Mode transmissions have been developed, one for rear-drive vehicles and one for front-drive vehicles.

The Two Mode transmission has two electric motors and delivers the fuel economy advantages of hybrid driving in the city and on the highway. A regular one mode hybrid, such as the Toyota Prius, uses the electric motor to drive the vehicle at low speeds and to assist the gasoline engine when accelerating. At highway speeds, the electric motor in the Prius does not drive the vehicle. The Two Mode uses its electric motors to drive the wheels all the time, sometimes in conjunction with the gasoline engine.

Advanced propulsion plans

Here are BMW’s plans for advanced-propulsion vehicles. The online guide examines 14 automakers’ plans.

BMW: The German automaker’s Mini brand is leasing 500 Mini E battery-powered electric cars to consumers now. This is an electric car that must be plugged in at night to recharge the lithium ion batteries. The test could lead to limited production in about 2011.

BMW plans to introduce the X6 crossover with a Two-Mode hybrid powertrain in late 2009 or early 2010. This will be a gasoline-powered hybrid that uses the Two Mode transmission developed by BMW, Chrysler, Daimler and GM. In this application, the Two Mode transmission is a four-speed rear-drive system that delivers the benefits of electric-assist hybrid propulsion in both city and highway driving and also can tow heavy loads.

On European vehicles, various BMWs are equipped with a stop-start system that uses lithium ion batteries.

BMW also is testing a fleet of 7-series sedans with an internal combustion engine that burns either gasoline or liquid hydrogen.

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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Toyota Is Ready To Lend Money

Toyota ready to loan money

DAN STRUMPF | Sunday, October 5, 2008 at 12:30 am

NEW YORK – Toyota Motor Corp.’s unprecedented offer of zero-percent financing on nearly a dozen models is trying to make the point that tight credit is no excuse for buyers – in fact, it’s literally giving credit away for free.

But after the top Japanese automaker posted a 32 percent drop in September sales that only domestic competitors had experienced until now, the question is: Is it enough to get people to buy?

“I don’t think it’s going to just open the floodgates,” said Jessica Caldwell, an analyst at the auto Web site Edmunds.com. “But it’s going to help a lot of people who want a quality car, who don’t want to worry about it, and are now going to be able to afford it because of this deal.”

Toyota’s U.S. division said Thursday night that it will offer the free financing on 11 models with terms ranging from 36 to 60 months. The incentive expires Nov. 3.

Toyota is offering the deal on a wide variety of vehicles, including the Matrix, Corolla, Camry, RAV 4, Highlander, FJ Cruiser, 4Runner, Sequoia, Sienna, Tacoma and Tundra. The automaker’s hybrids, along with some better-selling models like the Yaris subcompact, are excluded.

Although Toyota has cut financing rates and offered other deals in the past, zero-percent financing on such a wide scale is an unprecedented move for an automaker that has prided itself on its restraint with incentives. Its U.S. counterparts, meanwhile, have aggressively used cut-rate financing and big cash-back offers as a way to bolster sales in the flagging auto market.

Nearly all automakers said tighter credit standards knocked buyers from the market last month, when sales industrywide fell 27 percent from a year earlier, hitting fewer than 1 million for the first time in 15 years.

“What this is a response to is the misconception that getting a loan or leasing a car is difficult to do,” Toyota spokesman Xavier Dominicis said Friday. “At Toyota it’s not. Our finance arm … it’s in a position to loan money.”

Richard Howse, senior director of auto finance for J.D. Power and Associates, said Toyota’s offer is likely an attempt to kick-start its sales considering September’s disappointing results.

“I don’t want to read their minds, but I think they realize they need to move the cars they have now,” Howse said. “It’ll be interesting to see how many people are able to take it given today’s credit environment.”

Credit score

Kerry Rivera, spokeswoman for Toyota’s finance arm, Toyota Financial Services, said the requirements to qualify for the offer include a FICO credit score of at least 650. The median FICO score is 720 on the scale that ranges from 300 to 850, according to a spokesman for Fair Isaac Corp.

“This is similar to how we’ve priced zero-percent deals in the past,” Rivera said.

Toyota’s incentives come at a time when banks are curtailing lending because of widespread mortgage defaults that have brought down investment banks and a major insurance company.

Automakers’ finance arms often raise capital by bundling auto loans and selling them as securities, and more of those loans have defaulted as the economy has deteriorated. Now that any collateralized debts like mortgages have fallen out of favor, the securities are more difficult to sell, making it harder for the finance companies to raise more money to lend.

However, Toyota is likely in a better position than its domestic competitors to offer zero-percent loans to a greater number of consumers, owing to its AAA credit ratings and strong cash flow, Edmunds.com’s Caldwell said.

“They have such deep pockets they’re able to weather the storm a little bit better. … I think Toyota will be able to offer more customers zero-percent APR financing than Chrysler or GM, where they have to be more picky with the customers that can receive,” she said.

Rivera said Toyota hasn’t been lending to subprime customers, which has insulated it from some of the credit troubles that other companies have experienced. She declined to release Toyota’s loan approval rates but said the automaker’s year-over-year rate “hasn’t dropped significantly.”

Other automakers

David Cole, chairman of the Center for Automotive Research in Ann Arbor, Mich., said Toyota may be among the best-positioned automakers to weather the credit storm.

“Toyota has absolutely gold-plated credit,” Cole said. “They’ve got $30 billion-plus in the bank. So whatever happens from a financial standpoint, they’re not going to be impacted too severely.”

That doesn’t mean other automakers aren’t offering zero-percent financing as well.

General Motors Corp. on Wednesday launched zero-percent financing on several models for up to 72 months, after more than a month of offering all buyers employee discounts, which generally knock 10 percent off the purchase price of a vehicle.

Chrysler LLC, meanwhile, has been offering 72-month zero-percent financing on a range of trucks and SUVs. Ford Motor Co. also offers zero-percent financing for up to 72 months on several models.

“There seems to be a feeling that people can’t get financing, but our credit criteria hasn’t changed in years,” said Meredith Libbey, spokeswoman for Ford Motor Credit. “We have financing available and we have money available to finance your contract and put you behind the wheel.”

At the same time, Libbey said, that doesn’t mean people’s credit scores haven’t dropped because of their economic troubles, making it harder for them to get loans. Ford doesn’t disclose its criteria for loan approval, she said.