Friday, February 26, 2010

Toyota Extends Extra Services Nationwide for Recall Customers

Toyota is extending the 'extra services' they offered to New York residents nationwide, in cooperation with Attorney Generals across the country.

Two days ago, Toyota announced they would be providing extra services to New York residents. It took two more days for them to announce the same extras would be provided to everyone else.

The extras being provided may include (depending on the owner's individual circumstances):

  • Expediting scheduling of the repair.
  • Pick up and return of the vehicle by a dealership representative.
  • Driving the customer to the dealership or to his or her place of work.
  • Where necessary, providing other alternate transportation for the customer, such as a rental car, loaner vehicle, or taxi reimbursement for the reasonable period that the customer is unable or unwilling to use his or her car.

There will be no charges for these services.  Reimbursement to the dealerships will be separate from the stipends of $7,500 to $75,000 that the company already has provided to dealers in connection with the recalls.

Detailed information and answers to questions about issues related to these recalls are available to customers at and at the Toyota Customer Experience Center at 1-800-331-4331 or the Lexus Customer Assistance Center at 1-800-255-3987.

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Recalls are Affecting Toyota Loyalty - Consumer Reports

Consumer Reports has conducted a quick study to see how the recent rash of Toyota recalls has affected owner loyalty. The question was asked of current Toyota owners, would they from Toyota again? 60 percent said yes they would, which is high, but drops them down by 10 percent since the last survey (December, 2009). It also dropped them in behind Honda.

Toyota is still above other major brands however, including Chevrolet (52 percent), Ford (51 percent), and Dodge (28 percent). Notably, Dodge owners are less likely to purchase another vehicle from that brand than in December, at 28 percent versus 32 percent.

Among the top brands, purchase intent among all consumers changed by a notable amount between the two surveys for only one brand; Toyota registered a decline of nearly 4 percentage points. The change was similar between genders, but purchase intent declined more among respondents aged 18 to 44 years old than those aged 45 and over.

Even with this modest decline, Toyota purchase intent among all respondents remains greater than all brands except Ford (17 percent) and Chevrolet (14 percent). (Source: Consumer Reports)

The survey was conducted on February 4-8 of 1,832 adults who said that their household owns a vehicle.

It's unclear how long the affect will last one way or another. The quick drop is remarkable, but will it last? Will it rebound, or continue to drop from this point forward.

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Honda Civic Hybrid Lawsuit Continues

A federal judge in California has rejected the proposed settlement in the lawsuit over Honda Civic Hybrid fuel economy.

Consumer advocates and 26 state attorney generals stepped in and argued the deal was not good for consumers. Most owners covered under the lawsuit would be eligible to receive $1,000 coupon off a new Honda, although the coupon did not cover the most fuel efficient cars such as the Insight, Civic Hybrid, or Fit.

Honda was also offering to send a DVD on how to improve fuel efficiency. Lawyers on the case would have received close to $3 million.

One advocate pointed out most consumers would not use the coupons, Honda would get to sell a few more cars to those who did, while the lawyers get millions.

It's unclear what will happen next. The trial could happen, or perhaps a new settlement would need to be hashed out.

Follow the link to learn all about the Honda Civic Hybrid lawsuit.

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Volkswagen Touareg Hybrid Price

Volkswagen Touareg
The Volkswagen Touareg Hybrid has been priced at 73,700 euros, or about 20,000 eruros higher than the base V6 diesel. That's over 35% increase in the retail.

The Touareg is expected to be priced in the $100K range in the US.

The luxury hybrid SUV mates a 3.0-liter V6, eight-speed gas engine with an electric motor and is rated at about 29 mpg (8.2 L/100km), a bit of an improvement over the TDI (7.4 L/100km). A full hybrid engine, the VW hybrid can get up to 30 mph on electric power alone, and comes with regenerative braking. The base vehicles lost 460 pounds somewhere along the way, too.

The luxury consists of everything you might want from a high end vehicle and includes lane departure assist (keeps track of inattentive drivers) and interactive cruise control (will hit the brakes if it senses you are getting too close to the vehicle in front of you).

VW had been looking at a Jetta hybrid, but figured the cost of a hybrid system would be easier to recoup in the Touareg. At this price, I can see why.

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Thursday, February 25, 2010

Honda CR-Z Hybrid Price in Japan

The Honda CR-Z is now available in Japan for 2.27 million (a little over $25,000 US). The two seater hybrid will be available in the US in the late summer.

According to edmunds, Honda had 4,500 pre-sales, and has targeted around 1,000 a month for the sporty hybrid.

I'm curious to see how well it will do in the long run. The last time Honda sold a 'power' hybrid, rather than a fuel efficient first hybrid, sales didn't go well once other options became available (see the Honda Accord hybrid). Sales of the current Insight haven't been stellar, either. But you can blame that on price cutting by Toyota on the Prius, the bad economy and gas prices remaining fairly stable (although they are creeping up again).

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Porsche Cayenne Hybrid

Porsche Cayenne
Look like its finally going to happen. Despite many fits and starts, there's been a lot of interest in a hybrid Porsche. The new Porsche Cayenne S and Turbo will be offered up in July, with hybrid version coming sometime in the fall.

The 3.0-liter supercharged V6 is mated to an electric motor to drive independently or together as needed. Combined, the performance is 'on par' with the V8 Cayenne S, while fuel efficiency is up by 23%.

Porsche Cayenne Hybrid
Unlike other full hybrids the electric motor is capable of driving the car at up to 97 mph while cruising. This 'sailing' mode will disengage and switch off the gasoline completely.

Despite an additional 1.9 inches in length and 1.6 inches in width, Porsche has dropped 400 lbs from the Cayenne S. Porsche relied on a 'special combination of materials, plus a redesign with an new all-wheel drive system.

Press Release follows:

Next-Generation Porsche Cayenne Led by Intelligent, Powerful Hybrid

All-new SUV debuts in Geneva with more room, technology, performance, and significantly less weight and fuel consumption

ATLANTA – February 25, 2010 – Led by a technologically advanced full hybrid model, the all-new, next-generation Porsche Cayenne sport-utility vehicle will debut at the Geneva motor show in early March. In line with the Porsche Intelligent Performance philosophy, the entire range, from the entry level Cayenne with a V6 engine to the 500-horsepower Cayenne Turbo, all deliver improved performance while using less fuel and producing fewer emissions than ever before.

The New Porsche Cayenne will make its North American debut at the New York International Auto Show (press days: March 31 and April 1, public days: April 2-11). The Cayenne S and Cayenne Turbo go on sale in July as a 2011 model, and U.S. pricing will be announced soon. Porsche dealerships will offer the Cayenne and Cayenne S Hybrid in the fall.

The performance of a V8 with the fuel efficiency of a V6

The highlight is the new Cayenne S Hybrid featuring a highly sophisticated parallel full hybrid drive system. With a combined power output of 380 horsepower from the supercharged V6 combustion engine and an electric motor, the Cayenne S Hybrid combines the performance of a V8 with the economy of a V6.

Next-Generation Porsche Cayenne Led by Intelligent, Powerful Hybrid

Through continuous interaction between the 3.0-liter supercharged V6 and electric motor, the Cayenne S Hybrid focuses on maximum efficiency. Depending on driving conditions, either drive unit can operate independently or together. The 47-horsepower (34 kW) electric motor is the ideal partner for the 333-horsepower engine, which produces high torque at low engine speeds. With peak torque at 427 lb-ft at just 1,000 rpm, the Cayenne S Hybrid's performance is on par with a V8-powered Cayenne S.

The Cayenne S Hybrid's two drive units are connected by a decoupling clutch. A hybrid controller constantly coordinates their complex interaction, and intelligent management of the clutch makes the transition among various driving modes seamless. Like many hybrids, the Cayenne S Hybrid can cover short distances on electric power alone, free of emissions and noise up to 60 km/h or almost 40 mph. For aggressive acceleration, the motor provides an extra 'boost' to the gasoline engine.

What makes the Cayenne S Hybrid unique is its ability to cruise at high speeds on electric power alone. The gasoline engine can be completely switched off and disengaged from the drivetrain at speeds of up to 97 mph. Christened by the Weissach engineers as 'sailing' – or cruising -- mode, the drag forces exerted by the combustion engine and their braking effect are eliminated in the interest of lower resistance and fuel consumption.

Next-Generation Porsche Cayenne Led by Intelligent, Powerful Hybrid

All new-generation Cayenne SUVs set high standards for efficiency and performance. Compared with the former models, fuel consumption is down by up to 23 percent in the New European Driving Cycle and CO2 emissions are significantly reduced, despite the increased performance. Actual EPA-certified fuel economy figures will be available when the cars go on sale in North America in July.

A new eight-speed Tiptronic S automatic transmission with a wide range of gear ratios and the Automatic Start Stop function (first introduced on the Panamera) contribute to these improvements. So does efficient thermal management of the engine and transmission cooling circuits, on-board electrical network recuperation, variable deceleration fuel cut-off and the Cayenne's intelligent lightweight construction.

New Cayenne sheds weight, gains space, yet looks more sleek and compact

Thanks to a special combination of materials as well as changes in the overall vehicle concept, such as a new all-wheel drive system, weight has been significantly reduced on all models. Despite an even higher standard of safety, the Cayenne S is 400 lbs lighter, which not only improves fuel consumption and lowers emissions, but also boosts performance, agility, and handling.

The completely new Cayenne design leaves no doubt that it is part of the Porsche family. Its sporting character is evident from all angles, and its Porsche shape and design highlights are more distinct than ever before.

The new Cayenne is 1.9 inches longer than its predecessor, and an added 1.6 inches in wheelbase ensures extra space and greater versatility. But despite larger exterior dimensions, the new Cayenne looks far more compact and dynamic.

Inside, the luxurious interior features a high center console that, like the Panamera, rises up at an incline to meet the dashboard center stack with high-quality fittings and a touch-screen infotainment interface. Porsche's traditional set of five round instruments in the drivers gauge cluster includes a high-resolution circular TFT screen to the right of the tachometer. It can be used to change radio stations, vehicle settings, or access the navigation system or view the map. Rear-seat comfort is much improved, as well. The bench slides fore-and-aft by 6.3 inches, while the backrest can be adjusted to three different angles.

The Cayenne V6 and V8 engines are more powerful and more fuel efficient

The entry-level Cayenne with its 300-horsepwer 3.6-liter V6 engine and mated to the new eight-speed Tiptronic S automatic transmission consumes 20 percent less fuel in the New European Driving Cycle than its predecessor.

Fuel consumption is also down significantly on the high-torque Cayenne S. Its 4.8-liter V8 produces 400 horsepower, 15 more than the previous model. When combined with the overall weight savings, performance is markedly increased, yet fuel consumption is down by 23 percent in the New European Driving Cycle.

The Cayenne Turbo, with its 500-horsepower, 4.8-liter twin-turbocharged V8 also consumes 23 percent less fuel than its predecessor despite its improved performance and acceleration.

Together with the Cayenne S Hybrid, three of the new Cayenne models produce less than 200 grams of CO2 per kilometer. At 193 g/km, the Cayenne S Hybrid is not only the cleanest Cayenne model, but also the cleanest vehicle in Porsche's entire portfolio.

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Toyota RAV4 Hybrid for 2012 is reporting Toyota is planning on a hybrid RAV4 for the next generation which is due in 2012. According to the article, this is all part of Toyota's plant to offer a hybrid variant on all of their models.

We'll have to wait and see if that's true or not. Even if it is true, will it be available here and how much is it going to cost are certainly up in the air.

Only the five door RAV4 would get the hybrid treatment.

Autocar also mentioned a Lexus IS rear-drive plug-in, but with a Toyota badge.

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Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Lexus CT 200h at Geneva Auto Show

Lexus CT 200h Badge - Just a teaser for now
The Lexus CT 200h will be on hand at the 2010 Geneva Auto Show. Billed as the first and only full hybrid vehicle in the premium compact segment, the CT 200h was created for those who wish to 'lower their emissions but not their standards.'

The CT 200h joins Lexus hybrids like the RX, GS and LS to create a full line-up of hybrid cars for the luxury arm of Toyota.

The CT 200h will come with the second-generation of Lexus Hybrid Drive technology, similar to the HS 250h.  The basis for the CT 200h is the concept LF-Ch debuted six months ago.  But the line shown in the teaser photo is very different from the concept.  The concept was 22 inches shorter than the Prius.

Toyota says this compact luxury hybrid is bound for Europe, not the US.

More details as they come.

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Professor Recreates Sudden Acceleration in Toyota Vehicles

ABC News has picked up on a report by Professor Dave Gilbert of Southern Illinois University, who has demonstrated an ability to create a sudden acceleration in Toyota vehicles.

the short circuits introduced by Gilbert in his tests and demonstrations reflect what can happen in the real world because of corrosion, moisture, and manufacturing imperfections.


"This is a dangerous condition, it is not fail safe," said Gilbert in an interview to be broadcast Monday on ABC World News with Diane Sawyer.

What's worse is, if the conditions do occur, the car will not record it as an error, making it unlikely Toyota could figure out what happened.

The report is making some people nervous, even those who are very supportive of hybrids in general.

Toyota released a statement saying they had spoken with Professor Gilbert, but the problem he is describing on ABC News is not the same one he described to them (see the full press release from Toyota below) and the original description "would not cause unintended acceleration to occur".  Having said that, Toyota says the new claim is different and "Toyota welcomes the opportunity to evaluate the Toyota Avalon shown in today's story and the method by which Mr. Gilbert allegedly caused the vehicle to accelerate unintentionally."  And they're inviting ABC News along for the evaluation.

So, this story is not going away.

Toyota spoke with Mr. Gilbert on February 16 in an effort to understand his concerns. During this discussion, Mr. Gilbert explained that he had connected a resistor between the output wires of the two accelerator pedal sensors on a Toyota Tundra. In other words, he had artificially introduced an abnormal connection between two otherwise independent signals coming from the accelerator pedal sensors. Mr. Gilbert advised Toyota that he believed that his intentional misdirection of these signals could cause the vehicle to accelerate unexpectedly.

In response to Mr. Gilbert's claim as communicated to Toyota, Toyota confirmed that what Mr. Gilbert described would not cause unintended acceleration to occur. In fact, under the abnormal condition described last week by Mr. Gilbert, if there is a short with low resistance between the two signals, the electronic throttle control system illuminates the "check engine" light and the vehicle enters into a fail-safe mode of engine idle operation. If there is a short with high resistance, outside the range of "check engine" light illumination, the accelerator pedal continues to be responsive to driver input and the vehicle will return to the idle condition when the foot is taken off of the accelerator pedal. Unintended acceleration would not occur.

After watching the story today on ABC News featuring Mr. Gilbert, Toyota was surprised to learn that Mr. Gilbert appears now to be making a different claim regarding the electronic throttle control system and in a vehicle other than as described to Toyota last week. Although it is difficult to tell from the footage used in the story, Mr. Gilbert appears to be introducing a different external and artificial method to manipulate the throttle. In order to set the record straight, Toyota welcomes the opportunity to evaluate the Toyota Avalon shown in today's story and the method by which Mr. Gilbert allegedly caused the vehicle to accelerate unintentionally. We welcome the attendance of ABC News at any such evaluation of this vehicle and Mr. Gilbert's testing.

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Monday, February 22, 2010

Mercedes F800, a Fuel Cell Plug-in Hybrid

Mercedes-Benz F800, Hybrid Concept
Mercedes-Benz will be showing off its F800 concept vehicle at the Geneva Motor Show, a hydrogen fuel cell plug-in hybrid. According to the press release, the F800 concept can travel 18 miles on an all electric charge, after being plugged in overnight. Once the charge in the lithium-ion battery pack is gone, the fuel cell can power the vehicle for another 375 miles.

The result is no emissions, at least while you're driving (electricity production produces emissions at the plant, not the car).

Fun features in the five-seater include sliding rear doors, bold fenders and a prominent grille that Mercedes-Benz is telling reporters gives the direction they are heading in for future vehicles.  A new camera touchpad records images of the user's hand and displays it in transparent form above the center console.  A “range on map” shows how far the car can travel in electric mode.

The next generation cruise-control will follow the car in front into curves without steering at speeds up to 25 mph.  The Pre-Safe 360 Degree system  will engage the brakes about 600 milliseconds before a rear-end collision to prevent a secondary crash into another car or object.

The fuel cell powered engine is under the hood, while the electric motor is near the rear axle. Two of the hydrogen tanks are located between the passengers.

The plug-in V-6 hybrid can produce up to 409 hp and can go from 0-60 in 4.7 seconds.

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Honda Working on Large Hybrids, Possible Minivan

Honda is working on a new hybrid system for larger cars, with a version available in around three years. That according to Tomohiko Kawanabe, chief operating officer of automobile R&D.

This is quite the follow-up to the push from CEO Takonobu for hybrid development.

The single electric motor used in the Honda Insight and Civic is too 'mild' for a larger car. And would likely be used in a hybrid engine for the Odyssey minivan or Pilot SUV. Minivans, in particular, are an untapped market for hybrids so far. That makes Honda's announcement exciting on its own.

Honda had previously been working on a diesel for larger vehicles, hybrid for smaller vehicles development plan, but seems to be reversing that. Now, they are looking at developing small diesels for Europe and larger hybrids for the US.

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Saturday, February 20, 2010

Hertz Partners with Nissan to Rent EV Leaf

If buying an electric vehicle is out of reach for now, perhaps you'd rather rent one and see what it's like? Hertz and Nissan announced the Nissan Leaf will be available to rent starting in 2011 in the US and Europe.

Nissan is touting the Nissan Leaf as the first affordable, zero-emission car, and just announced you can reserve one starting in the spring of 2010. But they have not announced what the MSRP will be. It will come with the batteries (there was a lot of speculation the battery pack would be leased, instead of sold with the car). Nissan expects 20,000 pre-orders to be made before it goes on sales.

Nissan will invite people to "opt-in" and receive updates and information about Leaf through a reservation system that will tell them when the electric car is available--either for test drives or to take home. Participants will receive the latest news about the company's zero-emission activities as well as information about Nissan Leaf and how to become "plug-in ready."

The Leaf will have a range of 100 miles or so and seats five.

"The partnership with Nissan seals Hertz's commitment to green-car rentals and firmly demonstrates our mission to advancing zero-emission mobility on a global scale," said Mark P. Frissora, Hertz Chairman and Chief Executive Officer said in a statement.

Toshiyuki Shiga, Chief Operating Officer of Nissan Motor Co., Ltd., commented: "Our partnership with Hertz is an important step towards our goal of promoting widespread acceptance of electric vehicles. Together with our Alliance partner Renault, we aim to be the leader in zero-emission vehicles which we believe are one of the best solutions for sustaining the growing need for transport across the globe."

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Thursday, February 11, 2010

Hybrid Car Sales, January 2010

Hybrid car sales were up compared to last year, with reported full hybrid sales increasing to 17,051 units sold.  That's an increase of 13.0% from last year.  That's still below the levels from 2007 and 2008 (pre-Recession).

Monthly Sales January 2009 January 2010 % Change
Make Model N % N %
Ford Escape/Mariner 880 5.8 715 4.2 -18.8
Ford Fusion/Milan 0 0.0 1,152 6.8 0.0
GM Escalade 132 0.9 52 0.3 -60.6
GM Silverado/Sierra 7 0.0 97 0.6 1285.7
GM Tahoe/Yukon 467 3.1 226 1.3 -51.6
Honda Accord 1 0.0 0 0.0 -100.0
Honda Civic 1,076 7.1 253 1.5 -76.5
Honda Insight 0 0.0 1,307 7.7 0.0
Nissan Altima 644 4.3 1,059 6.2 64.4
Toyota Camry 1,141 7.6 867 5.1 -24.0
Toyota GS 450h 41 0.3 41 0.2 0.0
Toyota HS 250h 0 0.0 1,247 7.3 0.0
Toyota Highlander 984 6.5 526 3.1 -46.5
Toyota LS600hL 33 0.2 9 0.1 -72.7
Toyota Prius 8,121 53.8 8,484 49.8 4.5
Toyota RX 400h 1,556 10.3 1,016 6.0 -34.7

Prius sales accounted for half of all hybrids sold last month, giving Toyota a 71% market share.  That's about 7% down from last year.  Ford almost doubled their share, while Honda and Nissan also went up by 2% each.
In total, Toyota, Nissan, Ford, and Honda all increased sales from last year, while GM was down 38% from last year.  Since GM sells the most hybrid SUVs and Trucks, the percentage of hybrid cars sold was way up from last January.

Monthly Sales January 2009 January 2010 % Change
Make N % N %
Ford 880 5.8 1,867 10.9 112.2
GM 606 4.0 375 2.2 -38.1
Honda 1,077 7.1 1,560 9.1 44.8
Nissan 644 4.3 1,059 6.2 64.4
Toyota 11,876 78.7 12,190 71.5 2.6
Total 15,083

Monthly Sales January 2009 January 2010 % Change
Make N % N %
Car 11,057 73.3 14,419 84.6 30.4
SUV 4,019 26.6 2,535 14.9 -36.9
Truck 7 0.0 97 0.6 1285.7
Total 15,083

The recall on the Prius and Lexus HS 250h did not have an effect last month, as it was not well known, yet.  It's possible, however, the recall won't have an effect at all, with some sources saying interest has actually increased since the recall was made public.

Individual model sales seemed to be down somewhat, with the increase due to an increase in the number of models being sold.  For instance, the Insight made up for the drop in Civic Hybrids from Honda, while the HS 250h helped increase Toyota hybrid sales.

Hybrid Car Sales, December 2009 and Cumulative 2009
Hybrid Car Sales, January 2009.

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Tuesday, February 09, 2010

2010 Prius and HS 250h Brake Recall is now Official

Toyota announced a voluntary safety recall on the 2010 Prius and 2010 HS 250h to update software in the vehicle's anti-lock brake system. Toyota also recalled them in Europe and Japan, adding in the Sai Hybrid in Japan.

First and second generation Prius are not affected by this recall (but you may want to read this article about that).

That affects 133,000 Prius and 14,550 Lexus HS in the US, and around 400,000 vehicles worldwide.

Toyota has already implemented the software fix on their production lines, so only Prius produced after May 2009 are affected. The HS 250h will have its production line changed later this month.

According to the statement from Toyota:

The ABS, in normal operation, engages and disengages rapidly (many times per second) as the control system senses and reacts to tire slippage. Some 2010 Model Year Prius and 2010 HS 250h owners have reported experiencing inconsistent brake feel during slow and steady application of brakes on rough or slick road surfaces when the ABS is activated in an effort to maintain tire traction.

Toyota has responded to owner concerns with a running production change for 2010 Prius that was introduced last month, improving the ABS response time, as well as the system's overall sensitivity to tire slippage.
The HS 250h and Toyota Sai are built on the Prius platform, so the same issue affects all three vehicles.

Toyota will begin mailing letter to Prius owners next week, while HS 250h owners will be notified in a few weeks.

Detailed information about these recalls is available to customers at and at the Toyota Customer Experience Center at 1-800-331-4331, or the Lexus Customer Assistance Center at 1-800-255-3987.

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Monday, February 08, 2010

Hybrid ATS in Cadillac Future

GM is looking into migrating their two-mode hybrid powertrain into rear-wheel drive sedans in the next generation of hybrids from GM (Source: Tom Stephens, GM Vice-Chairman: Autonews).

In other words, GM is looking to build more hybrid Cadillacs. Possibly the ATS followed by the CTS.

In order to fit into a sedan size car, GM is working on building an electric motor that is 25 percent smaller and 20 percent more powerful than the one in GM's full sized truck and SUV hybrids.

The question becomes, should they? The Volt may be a better way to go for GM. Their full hybrids SUV and truck line have not had stellar results so far. Would a full size sedan do any better?

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Prius Bargain Shoppers

Surprising results, to say the least. According to, shoppers are more interested in the Prius than ever after all the news regarding the problems with the braking software.
"Are Problems a Selling Tool? Prius Purchase Intent Rises With Brake Woe News" Green Car Advisor

"When a car or automaker receives bad press, people sense an opportunity" to get a better price through distress sales or incentives, he said. "We saw the same reaction from consumers when Chrysler and General Motors declared bankruptcy."
Is this really a good thing?

I'm not sure you'll be able to find a bargain on the Prius right now, anyways. Despite the problems you've been hearing about, the Prius you find on the lot already has the fix in place.

Also, there is a waiting list as a lot of the inventory is being redirected to Japan, where the demand is still very, very high. The waiting list in Japan is months, possibly a year, in advance at this point. So, what we're getting in the US is set to a point where they can keep demand high enough to keep the waiting lists, but low enough they can sell more in Japan.

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Friday, February 05, 2010

Toyota Expanding Safety Exam Into Lexus HS 250h and Sai Hybrid

Toyota is checking the braking system in the HS 250h and Sai Hybrid. Both models use the same system as the Prius, which Toyota has already acknowledged has an issue in the software for its braking system.

The 2010 Toyota Prius has reportedly had issues when braking on bumpy or icy roads. There may be a slight delay (less than one second) as the system switches from regenerative braking to friction braking. The small delay can have serious issues when traveling at high speeds (worst case seems to be an extra 90 feet to stop at 60 mph according to a lot of the media reports).

Japan has ordered Toyota to look into this, while the NHTSA has opened up their own investigation.

The Prius and HS 250h and Sai are not involved in the recall for the braking mechanism, although Prius owners were advised to remove their floor mats to keep the accelerator from getting stuck.

Toyota has said that new vehicles being manufactured now have a fix in place, while they are planning on how to handle the cars already on the road.

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Fisker Moves Out of Michigan

Fisker has closed its Michigan office and will move operations to its offices in Irvine, CA. 20-30 employees are relocating, while Fisker says they will be hiring 100 new workers in the coming year.

Source: Fisker Automotive to shut facility in Michigan -

Fisker says it is using some of the money it received in private funding to fund the move. They are getting ready for production of the Karma, a plug-in hybrid, while also preparing for the Nina project.

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Ford Recall On Hybrid Brakes

On the day after the NHTSA opened an investigation into the Prius braking system, Ford announced they are also fixing an issue in the software that governs the transition from regenerative braking to friction braking in their hybrid cars.

Ford says 17,600 2010 Mercury Milan Hybrid and Ford Fusion Hybrids are being recalled (although they say its not an official recall) to have the new software installed to fix the problem.

A Consumer Reports test driver first noticed the issue. The test driver ran a stop sign in a residential area when the brake pedal sank further than normal. Warning light appeared and the car coasted to a stop with minimal feel in the brakes. After turning the car off, then back on, the driver did not have any other issues.

Ford says the software glitch says braking power 'seems' to drop away, as the car switches from regenerative braking to friction braking. This causes the driver to feel the brakes have failed, although Ford says the brakes have not failed. Ford also says the issue is not one of safety, but the repairs they are going to make in their 'not a recall' is a 'customer satisfaction program.'

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration does have one complaint about 'minimal resistance' in the brakes. Ford says they had received a small number of customer complaints. There has been one crash and no injuries. Ford says they have reported the problems to the NHTSA.

Ford notified dealers on Thursday about the program. The hybrids built before Oct 17, 2009 are affected, while cars built after that date are not. Ford says they changed the software in cars being built then.

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Thursday, February 04, 2010

Toyota Admits to Software Problem in 2010 Prius Brakes

Toyota is blaming the software in the Prius braking problem they are having. Keep in mind, this is separate from the massive recall on other Toyota cars.

The 2010 Toyota Prius is likely to face a recall after Toyota admitted (Source: to a software glitch in the Prius anti-lock brake system.

According to the story, Toyota has already fixed the problem in cars that are being manufactured now.  They just haven't provided any communication to owners.

The 'disconnect' causes a less than one second delay before the brakes take hold. Customers have described the problem as occurring when they are on frozen or bumpy roads, and I've seen some descriptions as indicating it takes a moment for the car to switch from regenerative braking to friction braking.

Over a dozen complaints have been lodged in Japan, while over 100 have occurred in the US.

A search of NHTSA's complaint database turned up ...

"I have been driving my 2010 Prius for 6 months and have experienced the following nearly 10 times," one owner wrote. "When braking, if a pothole or bump in the road is hit, the car seemingly jerks forward/accelerates for a split second."
The 'jerking forward' seems to be lack of slowing down, rather than actual acceleration. But that still has to be a scary thing when driving in conditions that are already rough (icy or bumpy).

This issue does not seem to be affecting earlier generations of Prius, just the new 2010 model.

UPDATE: The NHTSA has opened a formal investigation and Toyota has released a statement:

Toyota is aware of NHTSA’s intention to begin a Preliminary Evaluation centered on owner complaints of a braking issue with the 2010 model year Prius. Toyota will cooperate fully with NHTSA’s investigation.

Some customers have complained of inconsistent brake feel during slow and steady application of brakes on rough or slick road surfaces when the anti-lock brake system (ABS) is activated in an effort to maintain tire traction. The system, in normal operation, engages and disengages rapidly (many times per second) as the control system senses and reacts to tire slippage. A running production change was introduced last month, improving the ABS system's response time, as well as the system's overall sensitivity to tire slippage.

This preliminary evaluation addresses owner complaints specific to the 2010 Prius. This condition is not related to either the floor mat entrapment recall or the sticky pedal recall currently in action.

Toyota will continue to evaluate the condition as it relates to owner complaints and will keep NHTSA informed of its progress.

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Ford Focus RS Hybrid

Autoexpress is detailing the possibility of a Ford Focus Hybrid RS in the future. The possibility of more power, less fuel has RS fans excited.

Ford and Peugeot are planning on co-developing the hybrid system (as seen in the Peugeot SR1 concept). The electric motor mated to the 1.6 liter turbo engine is supposed to allow for four wheel drive, 0-60 in five seconds and 40 mpg.

Source: Auto Express.

Too bad it's not going to become a reality for at least three years.

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Wednesday, February 03, 2010

Japan Orders Toyota to Investigate Prius Hybrid Brakes

Japanese authorities have ordered Toyota to investigate the brakes in the Prius.
Japan Tells Toyota to Test Prius Brakes for Defect -

NAGOYA, Japan — The Japanese government said Wednesday that it had ordered Toyota to investigate a possible defect in its newest Prius hybrid model after receiving 14 reports of brake trouble, another blow for an automaker already embroiled in its biggest-ever recall.
Complaints mount about Prius brakes - Feb. 3, 2010
In the U.S., more than 100 complaints alleging poor brake performance have been lodged with the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration against the 2010 Prius, a newly designed version of the car that was introduced last summer.
This is really bad news for Toyota and their signature hybrid. While Prius sales were up in January compared to last January, this sort of news is going to scare off anyone who thinks the current massive Toyota recalls don't affect hybrids.

BTW, I've seen reports about this issue before. According to an NHTSA memo the regenerative brakes cut out for a moment prior to the friction brakes kicking back in. That momentary changeover makes it seem like you're accelerating, although it's technically just not slowing down any more. Either way, that's a scary thought when you're applying the brakes.

UPDATE: Notice from Toyota
In certain 2010 model year Prius vehicles, Toyota has received reports that some customers have experienced inconsistent brake feel when the vehicle is driven over potholes, bumps or slippery road surfaces.

Toyota is currently in the process of confirming these reports and investigating the vehicle driving conditions under which the reported phenomenon occurs. It would be premature to comment until the investigation has been completed.
Not exactly alot of information in their statement, but a statement indicates they are aware of the issue.

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Tuesday, February 02, 2010

Toyota (Prius) Hybrid Sales Were Up in January Despite Recall

Prius and other Toyota hybrid sales are up this month, which may be a little bit surprising given all the issues surrounding Toyota right now.  In total, Prius sales were up by 13%, while Toyota hybrid sales were up 2.6%

Where the Prius goes, so goes hybrid sales in general.  So that means that hybrid car sales for January will also likely be up from last January, although I haven't gotten all the numbers, yet.

Keep in mind that Prius sales, and hybrid car sales in general, were way down in January.  The next generation Prius was coming and customers were holding off on buying the old generation Prius and Toyota was no longer supplying them in great numbers.  They were just trying to clear the inventory before the new 2010 model showed up on dealer lots.

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Apple Co-Founder Wozniak Weighs in on Prius Safety

Apple Co-founder Steve Wozniak complained about his 2010 Toyota Prius at the Discovery Forum 2010 (CNet).

"Toyota has this accelerator problem we've all heard about," Wozniak said. "Well, I have many models of Prius that got recalled, but I have a new model that didn't get recalled. This new model has an accelerator that goes wild but only under certain conditions of cruise control. And I can repeat it over and over and over again--safely."

"This is software. It's not a bad accelerator pedal. It's very scary, but luckily for me I can hit the brakes," he said.
This goes against all we've heard from Toyota about the runaway issues they've been having with the Prius. The recall affecting the Prius says the pedal can get stuck in the floor mats unlike the more recent recall where Toyota says the accelerator is getting stuck because of friction wearing the mechanism down.

Toyota, despite the recent massive recall and apologies, has said all along the problem is not with the software. But I've seen several reports out of the media who are quoting safety experts saying there is a software issue.

And to have one of the co-founders of Apple talking about a software issue certainly brings a lot more credibility to the story.

Toyota has said they will be installing a brake override system.

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Pennsylvania Rebate for Hybrids is Ending Soon

In case you missed it or forgot about it, the Pennsylvania rebate program is still happening.  A $500 rebate is available to those who buy or lease a hybrid in Pennsylvania, but only until March 6th.

The program is pretty strict and is available on a first come first serve basis. The rebate instructions and forms are available on the Pennsylvania website.

The following 2009 model year vehicles are eligible for a rebate:

  • Toyota Prius
  • Honda Civic Hybrid
  • Nissan Altima Hybrid
  • Ford Escape Hybrid
  • Mazda Tribute Hybrid
  • Mercury Mariner Hybrid
  • Toyota Camry Hybrid
  • Saturn Vue Hybrid
  • Chevrolet Malibu Hybrid
  • Saturn Aura Hybrid

The following 2010 model year vehicles are eligible for a rebate:
  • Toyota Prius
  • Ford Fusion Hybrid (FWD)
  • Mercury Milan Hybrid (FWD)
  • Honda Civic Hybrid
  • Honda Insight
  • Nissan Altima
  • Toyota Camry Hybrid
  • Lexus RX 450h, 450h (AWD)
  • Lexus HS 250h
  • Ford Escape Hybrid (FWD)
  • Mazda Tribute Hybrid (2WD) & (FWD)
  • Mercury Mariner Hybrid (FWD)
  • Saturn Vue Hybrid
  • Chevrolet Malibu Hybrid

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Monday, February 01, 2010

Kiplinger Rates Hybrids Highly

Kiplinger has announced their annual buyers guid for 2010. And not surprisingly, hybrids dominate the categories for most fuel efficient in most categories.  The Toyota Prius was also tops for resale value in its category.

It's clear the Toyota Prius is tops in value, but whether the new hybrid cars that have really had an impact, for instance, the Ford Fusion Hybrid, can also retain their value remains to be seen.

See the press release from Kiplinger for the categories rated.  Also, Kiplinger has a sortable buying guide.

Washington, DC (February 1, 2010)—Thanks to redesigned models with leaner price tags, plus new hybrids and clean diesels, 2010 boasts some of the best auto inventory consumers have seen—ever. Kiplinger’s Personal Finance sorts through hundreds of vehicles to reveal the best values in its annual buyers’ guide, “2010 Cars: Where the Deals Are,” available online now at and in the March issue on newsstands Tuesday, February 9.

With sortable online data for more than 1,000 cars and SUVs, the annual buyers’ guide shifts into high gear to select winners in 11 categories ranked by price, performance, value, safety, roominess and driving impressions.

New features for this year include Kiplinger’s “worth a look” designation, which spotlights five vehicles in each category that score high enough to be in serious contention for top accolades; an online quiz to test your car-buying IQ; and slideshows highlighting Kiplinger’s picks for Best In Class, Best New Model, Most Fuel-Efficient and Best Resale Value.

Kiplinger’s Personal Finance top picks for 2010:

Under $20,000
* Best New Car: Volkswagen Golf ($19,890, 4dr hatch)—Thanks to the powerful pickup of a five-cylinder engine with the most torque in its class—plus sporty handling, high resale values and a full complement of standard safety features—the new Golf is anything but an econobox. The four-door is atop safety pick of the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety.
* Best in Class: Volkswagen Golf 4dr hatch ($19,890)
* Most Fuel-Efficient: Toyota Yaris 4dr ($13,865)
* Best Resale Value: Scion xB 4dr hatch ($16,420)

* Best New Car: Toyota Prius ($23,150, trim level II 4dr hatch)—With a more powerful engine that still manages to be less thirsty than the previous generation, the 2010 Prius has a combined city/highway gas mileage of 50 mpg. More cargo room and a split folding rear seat make it extra utilitarian.
* Best in Class: Volkswagen Jetta TDI 4dr ($24,510)
* Most Fuel-Efficient: Toyota Prius II 4dr hatch ($23,150)
* Best Resale Value: Mini Cooper S 2dr ($23,000)

* Best New Car: Subaru Legacy ($25,660, 3.6R AWD)—Standard all-wheel drive has always been the Subaru hook, but the new Legacy proves its cars can be sexy, too. Taut lines hint at the power under the hood—256 horses from the six-cylinder engine—and high-quality materials grace the roomier cabin. Resale values are strong, too.
* Best in Class: Honda Accord EX V6 4dr ($27,515)
* Most Fuel-Efficient: Toyota Prius IV 4dr hatch ($26,950)
* Best Resale Value: Toyota Prius IV 4dr hatch ($26,950)

* Best New Car: Ford Taurus SHO AWD ($37,995)—Ford’s new EcoBoost engine gives this Taurus the power of a V8 with the fuel economy of a V6. With a roomy interior and stylish design, this top safety pick emerged as a clear winner.
* Best in Class: BMW 335d 4dr ($44,725)
* Most Fuel-Efficient: Mercury Milan Hybrid 4dr ($31,655)
* Best Resale Value: Audi A5 2.0T Quattro AWD 2dr ($36,825)

$45,000 and over
* Best New Car: Mercedes-Benz E-Class ($51,175, E550 4dr)—Sleek lines are synonymous with the E-Class, but the all new sedan has an even smoother ride, sharper handling and better fuel economy (up to 26 mpg on the highway). An Attention Assist feature reminds fatigued drivers with an audible warning when to take a break.
* Best in Class: Lexus LS 460 4dr ($65,555)
* Most Fuel-Efficient: Lexus GS 450h 4dr ($57,425)
* Best Resale Value: Lexus LS 460 4dr ($65,555)

Sports Cars
* Best New Car: Chevrolet Camaro SS ($31,595, 1SS)—The long-awaited rebirth of Chevy’s iconic sports car combines a muscular body and a gauge-heavy instrument panel that recalls the pony car’s past, updated with plenty of 21st-century technology and safety features.
* Best in Class: Porsche Cayman S 2dr (62,370)
* Most Fuel-Efficient: Hyundai Genesis 2.0T 2dr ($22,750)
* Best Resale Value: Chevrolet Camaro SS 2dr ($31,595)

Small Crossovers
* Best New Crossover: Hyundai Tucson ($20,790, GLS)—Hyundai’s smallest crossover gets a Cinderella makeover this year with sharply creased sheet metal, a more aggressive stance, a bigger engine for oomph and more generous cargo space and passenger room.
* Best in Class: Honda CR-V EX AWD ($25,805)
* Most Fuel-Efficient (tie): Ford Escape Hybrid ($30,510) and Mercury Mariner Hybrid ($30,755)
* Best Resale Value: Honda CR-V EX AWD ($25,805)

Large and Midsize Crossovers
* Best New Crossover: Lexus RX 350 ($37,675)—Not just another grocery-getter, the third generation of the original crossover boasts three additional airbags, a new suspension for improved handling, expanded cargo space and available all-wheel drive—for a smaller price tag than last year’s model.
* Best in Class: Toyota Highlander V6 ($28,400)
* Most Fuel-Efficient: Lexus RX 450h (42,535)
* Best Resale Value (tie): BMW X5 35d AWD ($52,025) and BMW X6 35i AWD ($57,125)

Truck-Based SUVs
· Best in Class: Chevrolet Suburban ($44,430, 1500 LS AWD)

· Most Fuel-Efficient (tie): Cadillac Escalade Hybrid ($74,375), Chevrolet Tahoe Hybrid ($51,670) and GMC Yukon Hybrid ($52,135)

· Best Resale Value: Jeep Wrangler Sport AWD ($21,915)

· Note: No new truck-based SUV models were introduced this model year.

* Best New Wagon: Subaru Outback ($28,690, 2.5i Limited AWD)—A sophisticated interior and exterior makeover gives the new Outback a roomier cabin, more cargo space and better handling. The utilitarian all-wheel drive standard in Subarus and the new look make the Outback a Best in Class winner and a top safety pick.
* Best in Class: Subaru Outback 2.5i Limited AWD ($28,690)
* Most Fuel-Efficient: Audi A3 2.0 TDI ($30,775)
* Best Resale Value: Toyota Matrix S ($20,400)

* Best in Class: Toyota Sienna CE 7-Passenger ($25,340)
* Most Fuel-Efficient (tie): Chrysler Town & Country Limited ($35,880) and Volkswagen Routan SEL ($37,300)
* Best Resale Value: Honda Odyssey EX ($30,615)
* Note: No new minivan models were introduced this model year.

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