Friday, May 29, 2009

Safety Recall, the Tesla Way

Tesla has issued a safety recall on the rear, inner hub flange bolts for their Roadster, which is certainly disappointing for a vehicle that costs over $100,000 to purchase. And if you were one of the 345 owners affected by the recall and had to bring your roadster back in to have the bolt tightened correctly, that would be a typical situation for any car owner. But after paying all that money, I'm betting you wouldn't be happy about it.

But Tesla has decided to turn this situation around and create some good press and good feelings instead. Instead of having the owners bring the car back to them, they are going to the owners. A house-call, if you will.  So instead of bad feelings all around, I'm betting the owners are thinking, "Hey, bad things happen.  It's what you do when it happens that matters."

Tesla is making sure to let everyone know the issues is not related to 'their' powertrain, but it is a manufacturing issue.  Lotus, which builds the Roadster, is also having their Elise and Exige recalled for a similar issue.

The technician sent by Tesla will come to the owners home or office and if necessary, will take the vehicle back to the the repair facility.  Service will be performed at no charge and will include a complimentary, full-vehicle inspection and software upgrade.

“We plan to do everything we can to address this matter swiftly and keep customers satisfied,” said Greg Zanghi, Tesla’s Director of Service and Parts Operations.

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Thursday, May 28, 2009

2010 Lexus 250h Specs and Features

Toyota released a notice on their upcoming dedicated hybrid from Lexus.  The specs and features are impressive, not surprisingly.  Excellent aerodynamics allows the HS 250h to achieve 35 mpg city and 34 mpg highway, despite all of the added weight from the features you would expect from a Lexus.

Read the Press Release below to get all the specs and features.

2010 HS 250h Features & Specifications
With the introduction of the world’s first hybrid-only luxury car, the 2010 HS 250h, Lexus brings the promise of sustainable luxury to the forefront of the auto industry. In the process, the brand also elevates luxury transportation with innovative engineering and intelligent, driver-inspired design that offers excellent roominess and nimble maneuverability.
Each new generation of Lexus hybrids brings with it new gains in efficiency. With the HS 250h, designers and engineers took the opportunity to create a truly unique luxury car that maximizes fuel economy while further shrinking its impact on the planet by using ecologically advanced materials, clever packaging of people and components and eradicating waste wherever possible. They also found fresh ways to make driving easier and more efficient, with the premium quality and luxury expected from a Lexus.

Engine and Hybrid System
Hybrid efficiency is at the core of the HS 250h and Lexus’ first four-cylinder gas engine and latest hybrid system take advantage of the company’s continuous engineering advances to maximize fuel economy, minimize emissions and deliver driving pleasure. A highly efficient engine design, an exhaust heat recovery system, major efforts to reduce parasitic losses, a new evaporative emissions system and driver-selectable driving modes all make notable contributions. Significant efforts were also made to minimize engine noise.

An Atkinson-cycle engine design was chosen for its high efficiency and compatibility with hybrid operation in the new HS. The twin-cam engine uses four valves per cylinder and Variable Valve Timing with Intelligence (VVT-i) on the intake side. The engine is undersquare, with an 88.5-mm bore diameter and 96 mm stroke and has a relatively high compression ratio of 12.5:1. Peak output equals 147 horsepower and in combination with the hybrid drive motor, the HS generates 187 total system horsepower. It also meets the California SULEV and federal Tier 2 Bin 3 exhaust emission standards, emitting 70 percent fewer smog-forming emissions than conventional vehicles; it is also augmented by a new system that reduces evaporative emissions to near zero.

Careful design of the intake system reduces engine pumping losses and its twin resonators minimize intake noise. The cooling system uses a modular construction that combines an aluminum engine radiator, hybrid system radiator, AC condenser and fan into a single assembly for minimal weight. Plus, the electric fan speed is controlled via Pulse Width Modulation to reduce energy consumption and noise. Careful ducting of the cooling system prevents hot engine air recirculation that tends to occur at low speeds and while idling, further enhancing efficiency.

One of the keys to lower fuel consumption involves heat. Similar to the Lexus RX 450h, the HS employs an Exhaust Heat Recovery System that captures the heat of spent exhaust gases to speed engine coolant warm-up and allow the hybrid system to stop the engine earlier and more often in the driving cycle when it’s not needed, for example in low power demand conditions in city driving. Overall, the system can improve fuel efficiency by as much as seven percent in low ambient temperatures.

Using a two-motor hybrid system, the HS 250h uses a 141 hp drive motor that combines with the 147 hp gas engine (Note that the sum of the engine and motor power are not equal to the total system power as the operation of the engine and motor cannot be maximized in the same operation range). A second motor in the hybrid system serves as both engine starter and generator to charge the hybrid battery pack.

The efficient two-motor system also uses an electronically-controlled continuously variable transmission (CVT) that is a model of efficiency, simplicity and compact size with extremely smooth and quiet operation. A motor speed-reduction planetary gear unit helps provide high power output in this small package. The HS250h also uses an easy-to-operate shift-by-wire system that eliminates the need for bulky shift cables, saving space and weight while allowing much more design freedom in placing the shift lever in the interior.
An electric transmission oil pump eliminates another source of parasitic loss to further increase efficiency. Electronic operation allows a control strategy that invokes the oil pump only when needed, and since the oil also flows over the drive motor, overall efficiency of the motor and transmission are improved.

The HS 250h also incorporates a drive-mode switch, an important element in improving efficiency that involves driver and car interaction. The driver can select among four modes: Power, Normal, Eco and EV. Each switch position changes the rate of throttle opening for a given throttle-pedal angle. Normal mode has an essentially linear throttle action that gives naturally progressive power. In Eco mode, the throttle actuation on the engine and drive motor is reduced relative to the pedal angle to emphasize fuel economy. While Eco mode assists the driver in achieving improved fuel efficiency, overall the automatic A/C and hybrid battery coolant control helps achieve maximum fuel efficiency. Power mode can be selected for a more responsive feel when desired. Under certain circumstances, a new driver-selectable EV mode can allow the vehicle to be driven short distances using only the electric motors.

The HS 250h body design received considerable attention to aerodynamics. Ambitious goals were set requiring designers to work closely with aerodynamicists from the outset to create a low-drag form in an attractive, spacious, yet compact package. Their work yielded a top-in-class 0.27 coefficient of drag (Cd), which makes a considerable contribution to fuel economy, especially at highway speeds.

The low nose encourages airflow while also helping enhance vehicle dynamics. Smooth transitions along the front fender and A-pillars avoid disturbance of the airflow. Subtle front- and rear-bumper spoilers and a rear-lip spoiler contribute to low drag and minimize lift. The body sides taper from the center pillar to the rear where they meet the slightly kicked-out tail lamps, helping reduce drag-inducing wake turbulence. Also, a gull wing-shaped roof panel enabled designers to lower its profile to reduce air resistance and with a shape that is naturally stiffer than a conventional curved roof, engineers were able to reduce its thickness for further weight reduction.

Several measures were also taken under the car to promote airflow and reduce drag. Airflow resistance in the engine compartment was improved by optimizing the duct profiles around the radiator. Careful positioning of numerous underfloor covers plus added diffuser fins on the rear covers further reduce drag while enhancing straight-line control.

Acceleration and Fuel Economy
All of this focus on efficiency means that performance benefits as well, not only from gains in the engine and hybrid powertrain, but also from the HS 250h’s excellent aerodynamics (a product of frontal area, body drag and airflow management) and weight reduction efforts throughout the car. Outstanding fuel economy with confident, responsive acceleration is the inevitable result.

The HS 250 is expected to achieve an EPA-estimated 35 mpg city and 34 mpg on the highway for a combined 35 mpg. Careful drivers can use the Eco mode in conjunction with a new hybrid system monitor plus eco-driving indicator to improve on these numbers in certain conditions. The expected fuel efficiency is more than 20-percent better than the most fuel-efficient model currently in the Lexus lineup, while earning a SULEV emissions rating utilizing regular 87-octane gasoline.

Acceleration from 0-to-60 mph is rated at 8.4 seconds. Responsive passing acceleration that benefits from the instant torque of the electric motor and the CVT’s ability to quickly find the optimal gear ratio enhance the driving experience.

Underlying the HS 250h’s forward-thinking interior design is one of the most extensive implementations of bioplastic material in an automobile to date. Known more formally as Ecological Plastic, the material uses plant sources as raw material and its use for parts of the interior upholstery in the HS 250h is a world first.

Ecological Plastics is also used in a number of injection-molded, foam and board components throughout the car, including trunk compartment trim, cowl side trim, door scuff plates, seat cushions and the package tray. Overall, approximately 30 percent of the interior and trunk are covered in Ecological Plastic, resulting in a reduction of carbon emissions by approx. 20 percent over the estimated life of the vehicle.

Driver-Inspired Technology
From the driver’s perspective, several important developments inside the HS 250h transform the driving experience, making it easier and more enjoyable while also helping to enhance the driver’s attention to the road ahead.

A new standard multi-media package offers a comprehensive suite that includes voice recognition, Bluetooth® technology, integrated satellite radio (subscription required – first three months free) and USB iPod connectivity operated via steering wheel controls or from the display screen. A multi-information display situated in the instrument cluster keeps the driver informed of the numerous actions controlled by the steering wheel-mounted switches.

The HS 250h’s next generation navigation system is optional and, as noted earlier, features Lexus’ exclusive Remote Touch controller with user-adjustable haptic feedback. The innovative controller, similar to a computer mouse, eliminates the need for touch screen controls, allowing the pop-up navigation system screen to be mounted further up the center stack and away from the driver. The driver benefits with a clear, high-resolution screen, improved site lines and reduced eye movement. These advances combined with the physical feedback provided by the controller make the system extremely easy to use.

A new casual-language voice recognition feature, Voice Command, is standard on navigation-equipped vehicles. This new technology, previously only available on the 2010 Lexus RX350 and RX450h, allows the driver to give more flexible, conversational commands for easier access to audio and climate, as well as navigation system functions. Voice Command users avoid having to speak commands in a specific order (e.g., “Phone > Dial by Name > Dial Bob”). This same task can now be completed simply by saying, “Call Bob at home.” The Voice Command system also works to control many functions of the audio system, heating and air conditioning, and the navigation system. Commands such as, “Make it cooler,” “Let’s find XM channel 46,” “Show me Japanese restaurants,” and “I need a gas station,” make tasks easier to accomplish, in fewer steps, and help allow drivers to focus more on the road ahead.

As part of the all-new Lexus EnformTM navigation platform, the HS 250h also features XM NavTraffic® and XM NavWeatherTM services. These XM services will offer 3-month trials, after which subscriptions will be required. XM NavTraffic informs the driver of current traffic conditions with real-time traffic displays. When traffic problems are detected, in order to avoid them, the navigation system alerts the driver so that the route can be adjusted. XM NavWeather will provide near real-time weather conditions as well as spoken and nav-screen forecasts, both based on official National Weather Service data.

Also standard on navigation-equipped HS vehicles is XM® Sports and Stocks, a new service that is included with an XM satellite radio subscription. XM Sports provides game results and schedules for up to five personally selected national league sports teams. Drivers can add their desired teams to the navigation system and receive available team information by Voice Command or by using the haptic mouse controller. XM Stocks provides data for up to 10 personally selected stocks. After inputting their chosen stock symbols, drivers can receive available data via the navigation system or by Voice Command. Another driver-inspired development is an optional Heads-Up Display (HUD). The system projects a miniature display on a small portion of the windshield in front of the driver, significantly reducing eye movement to see frequently viewed information such as vehicle speed. The display has been developed for maximum visibility, with crisp, high-contrast white lighting that makes it possible to see even in difficult lighting conditions such as driving on snow-covered roads. In addition to speed, the system also displays turn-by-turn navigation arrows and drive-assist warnings, as well as audio information and Touch Tracer (sensors on steering-wheel switches will show an image of switch layout in the HUD), both of which can be turned off separately from the rest of the display.

The high-visibility, electro-luminescent instrument cluster offers fresh methods of keeping track of the various systems in the car and helps the driver to conserve fuel. A hybrid system indicator displays the hybrid system output and regenerative charging status, simultaneously indicating the efficiency of the system related to driving style. An auxiliary eco driving indicator light further assists the driver in maintaining the most economical use of system power. In practice, the added driver awareness has been shown to improve fuel economy several percentage points.

A multi-information display resides in the center of the hybrid system indicator. It uses high-contrast organic light-emitting diode (OLED) technology for maximum visibility and indicates various conditions such as fuel consumption, ambient temperature and cruising range. Additionally, several vehicle functions can be customized through use of the display with the multi-information switch.

Like most Lexus products, the HS 250h comes equipped with a rear-view camera as part of the available navigation system. However, the new HS adds an available Wide-view Front Monitor to enhance the driver’s ability to see in the traditionally blind areas around the front of the vehicle. The front grille-mounted camera has a maximum 190-degree lateral field of view and allows the driver to see as close as approximately 23.5 inches in front of the car within an 83-degree vertical field of view.

Images from the two monitors feed into the available park assist ECU which process and sends them to the navigation system display at separate times depending on whether the vehicles is moving forward or backward. The front monitor operates in either of two modes: Normal mode allows the driver to manually operate the camera with a switch on the lower left dash area. In auto mode, images from the front monitor automatically display when the vehicle slows to about six mph or less and automatically shuts off when speed rises above approximately 7.5 mph. The driver can also toggle the front monitor on or off while in the auto mode.

Two more items related to visibility merit mention: Over the years, changes to body structural requirements for safety have made it difficult to keep A-pillars slender, affecting the driver’s field of vision. But HS 250h designers were able to create a relatively slim A-pillar structure that improves visibility without degrading structural integrity. Additionally, the HS uses side glass with a water-repellant coating that improves wet weather visibility and aids defrosting performance.

As it is with ride, handling, noise and vibration, the body structure plays a key role in the fundamental safety characteristics of the HS 250h. To help protect the driver and passengers, the body is designed to be extremely strong but strategically resilient to help absorb and distribute energy in the event of a crash. High tension steel components are carefully located in the body structure, doors and other areas to help ensure strength in key areas. This includes special rear side members that are specifically designed to conform to the latest safety regulations requiring compatibility with a high-speed rear impact.

The HS 250h incorporates a standard class-leading 10-airbag Supplemental Restraint system with dual-stage airbags and knee airbags for driver and front passenger, side curtain airbags, and both front and rear seat-mounted side airbags to help protect front and rear passengers in certain types of severe frontal or side collisions. The front passenger airbag is a twin-chamber type that further helps protect the front-passenger. Additionally, front and outer rear seatbelts incorporate pretensioners with force-limiters to help protect occupants in the event of a severe frontal collision. Also, active head restraints are provided for the front seats.

An optional Pre-Collision System (PCS) with Dynamic Radar Cruise Control and Driver Monitor uses millimeter-wave radar to measure and maintain a pre-set following distance from a vehicle traveling ahead. The radar sensor can detect certain obstacles in front of the car, and a PCS computer with vehicle speed, steering angle and yaw-rate inputs helps to determine whether a collision is highly possible. In such a situation, PCS alerts the driver with audible and visual warnings, preemptively retracts front seat belts and pre-initializes Brake Assist so that increased braking will be applied the instant the driver depresses the pedal.  

Interior: Design for Innovation
The interior of the HS 250h was designed to communicate the high level of innovation inherent in the car with the craftsmanship expected from Lexus products. Because of the high frequency of interaction with it, Lexus’ exclusive Remote Touch navigation system controller is a focal point of the interior design.
The center stack sweeps rearward to the Remote Touch which naturally meets the driver’s hand atop a “floating” form over the center console. Switches and displays are neatly arranged for ease of operation and free of visual complexity, courtesy of Remote Touch.

Leather-trimmed seats are standard and special soft touch stitched details on the center stack and instrument hood provide an extra premium touch in the cabin. Interior trim colors include black leather, new light gray leather, parchment leather, and a distinctive black/light gray two-tone leather trim. All include standard high-finish trim or available brown walnut wood trim. Front door trim that mirrors the shape of the center stack and armrest provide a comfortable symmetry. And the steering wheel center pad appears to float on the wheel, surrounded by control switches that mimic the design and color of those on the center stack.

Body Design and Packaging
Efficiency was a priority in the HS 250h body design, with careful packaging of people and components to maximize space and special attention to aerodynamics to reduce drag. But the HS 250h is also a Lexus luxury car and its designers were very intent on creating a fresh, appealing design befitting the brand that is also hybrid-distinct.

Body designers looked to the Lexus L-Finesse design language to create a new shape for their first dedicated hybrid. The silhouette displays a smoothly flowing line from front to rear; the C-pillar has a unique arrowhead shape; the grille is set low in the front with no openings to facilitate smooth airflow over the hood; there is an air inlet directly below the grille to cool the hybrid system and a larger one lower in the fascia to cool the engine and radiator. The standard projector-beam headlamps provide a focused look, while innovative, efficient LED headlamps are available; and rear-combination lamps are clear with blue-accented frames that intentionally signal “hybrid.”

Striving to create a sleek and aerodynamic shape with a roomy cabin while containing the physical footprint of the car and packaging the hybrid system components, HS 250h designers had their work cut out for them. To accomplish their goals, they used a somewhat taller profile and more forward A-pillar location than used in conventional sedans. This allowed a higher seating position for both front and rear passengers, providing improved passenger vision and easier egress/ingress, while also creating a better location for the batteries. The battery components, including the high-voltage battery pack, auxiliary battery and battery-connected devices, were carefully packaged to take advantage of this layout, resulting in a spacious cabin and surprisingly large trunk space.

The HS250h will offer 10 premium Lexus exterior colors: Matador Red Mica, Tungsten Pearl, Smoky Granite Mica, Obsidian, Golden Almond Metallic, Black Sapphire Pearl, Starfire Pearl, and three hybrid exclusive colors – Black Opal Mica, Aurora White Pearl and Silver Opal Mica, which debuts on the HS.

Nimble handling, excellent body control, smooth ride and low noise in the HS 250h begin with a stiff body structure. The HS body is designed with superior stiffness overall with added focus in strategically-located areas that have the greatest effect on ride, handling and noise.

Designed to balance handling, ride and NVH at high levels, the HS uses a rigid and compact MacPherson strut front suspension. The system employs lateral force-reducing coil springs, a 24-mm diameter stabilizer bar plus large diameter pistons and rebound springs in the shock absorbers to help provide superior ride control. The steering rack is directly mounted (no rubber bushings) to create an unfiltered connection between it and the suspension members to help accurately communicate to the driver what is happening where the rubber meets the road.

The double-wishbone rear suspension used in the HS also balances performance and comfort and is important to its overall handling. Its compact design uses low-mount coil springs that help improve cargo space. As in the front suspension, rebound springs are used to aid both handling and ride, and all mountings and bushings are optimized to help provide an excellent combination of ride, handling and low noise.
Standard 17-inch aluminum alloy wheels on the HS 250h are shod with P215/55 R17 all-season tire. Available 18-inch aluminum alloy wheels are equipped with larger P225/45 R18 all-season tires. All wheels feature the direct-type Tire Pressure Monitoring System (TPMS).

As one of the leading users of electric power steering (EPS) in its vehicles, Lexus’ experience continues to improve the breed. For the HS 250h, a column mounted EPS system has been developed to work with both manual and available power tilt-telescoping steering columns. The vehicle-speed sensitive steering has been optimized to provide ideal steering feel at any speed. Inertia compensation control, friction feedback and recovery control assist in tailoring the steering feel and effort. The HS EPS system also improves fuel economy by eliminating the need for a belt driven-pump and its associated belts and fluid, further benefiting the environment.

Like all Lexus vehicles, the HS 250h braking system is comprehensive, and as a Lexus hybrid it is augmented by regenerative braking which also helps recharge the hybrid battery back and improve fuel economy.
The HS uses a newly developed electronic controlled brake (ECB) system actuator that is managed by the ECB computer and acts on the system’s hydraulic brake components. The ECB computer also controls the interaction between the four-wheel disc friction brakes and the regenerative brake system. The new ECB actuator is smaller, lighter and consumes less electrical current than previous systems, making additional contributions to fuel economy. Enhancements in the system design also help improve brake feel and controllability.

Comfort and Convenience
When more than one driver uses the HS 250h, an available new memory system allows individual driver settings to be recalled automatically by individual keys, saving the drivers the trouble of recalling their particular setting. The system memorizes the steering-wheel position, seat position, exterior mirror positions and air conditioning settings associated with each key, translating to shorter preparation time prior to driving.
Leather-trimmed seating is standard with a 10-way power-adjustable front seat, including power lumbar, for the driver. The passenger receives a standard eight-way power-adjustable seat, with a 10-way power-adjustable option. Heated or heated/ventilated front seats trimmed in semi- aniline leather are available in premium grade vehicles.

Climate control in the HS 250h is designed to provide comfort and clean air for all passengers. A dual temperature control system is used for front seat occupants and a dedicated rear blower mounted in the center console promotes quick cool down for the rear passengers. A plasma cluster ion generator, A/C clean air filter and a pollen removal mode help purify air inside the cabin. The interior get a little extra help from the windshield, which has infrared-ray reduction properties that help keep the interior cool, allowing a smaller size air conditioning system than would otherwise be required.

A 10-speaker, 137-watt Lexus premium audio system featuring a six-disc CD changer, a subwoofer and center speaker is standard. The system uses two-way woofer and tweeter systems in both front and rear for rich, clear sound quality.

Audiophiles will appreciate the HS 250h’s available Mark Levinson® 5.1-channel Premium Surround Sound system. Power is rated at 330 watts at only 0.1% total harmonic distortion from 20-20, 00 Hz, and the system uses 15 strategically placed speakers for outstanding audio performance and sound quality.
The HS250h accommodates a variety of music sources, providing standard auxiliary and USB inputs, Bluetooth® Audio wireless connectivity and standard XM® satellite radio capability (requires subscription after a three-month trial). Standard voice recognition and Bluetooth technology allow phone calls to be made and received while driving. When an iPod® is attached via the USB port, information such names for the artist, track and album is displayed on the available navigation or audio screen.

Noise and Vibration
As the newest member of the Lexus family and in keeping with its environmentally advanced design, aggressive noise and vibration targets were set for the HS 250h. A comprehensive and painstaking approach was taken with particular efforts directed at engine and booming noise as well as wind noise.
Component solutions on the HS include acoustic windshield glass and an extensive package of optimally positioned sound insulation materials. Measures such as dynamic dampers for the engine mounts, dual intake resonators and optimized muffler capacity were employed to achieve a smooth, linear sound quality without unnatural peaks and valleys.

Extensive aerodynamic work was conducted with both computational fluid dynamic (CFD) analysis and wind tunnel evaluation to identify noise sources, assist designers to create appropriate design elements and prove countermeasures. For example, a smoother transition between the windshield and roofline (backed by a sound-insulating inner layer) has improved air-flow and turbulence, reducing wind noise in the process.
Also, strategically placed seals, barriers and insulation material are used throughout the HS to eliminate noise paths and insulate passengers from noise sources.

Lexus EnformTM with Safety ConnectTM
The Lexus HS 250h is slated to be the first vehicle to offer the all-new telematics system Lexus EnformTM with Safety ConnectTM, available by subscription on the dedicated luxury hybrid sedan when it goes on sale in late summer. Safety Connect, the cornerstone of the services, is available on both non-navigation and navigation-equipped HS250h vehicles and offers four fundamental safety and security features: Automatic Collision Notification, Stolen Vehicle Location, Emergency Assistance Button (SOS), and enhanced Roadside Assistance, which adds GPS data to the already included warranty-based Lexus roadside service.

Lexus Enform services include all of the Safety Connect features and build upon them with the premium services of Destination Assist and eDestination. Destination Assist agents are available via the on-board cellular equipment and can help drivers find a specific address, a business by name, or a type of business (e.g., gas station, movie theater, etc.), and even Zagat-rated restaurants, and then send the coordinates to the navigation system for routing. With eDestination, drivers can go online via’s drivers’ site to save and sort destinations in up to 20 folders holding as many as 10 destinations each – all personalized by the driver. Then drivers can send the locations – up to 200 at a time – to their vehicle, where they will be available for download into the navigation system. Online, drivers can create personalized location names (e.g., “Favorite sushi,” “1 PM Appt,” “Kids’ doc,” etc.) and even list notes about their saved locations – all helping them see exactly the information they choose in the vehicle.

One-year trial subscriptions of Lexus Enform and Safety Connect are included with all new HS250h purchases. Renewal subscriptions will be available in a variety of terms. Drivers of navigation-equipped vehicles will have the option to subscribe to Safety Connect only or to Lexus Enform with Safety Connect. Both the Lexus Enform and the Safety Connect response center operate 24 hours a day, 7 days a week – every day of the year.

Launching with Lexus Enform is Lexus Insider, a complimentary, opt-in service available without a subscription on all navigation-equipped HS vehicles. Debuting in late summer, this feature offers in-vehicle audio casts that provide owners access to useful vehicle tips and event information, and insights into exclusive owners' benefits – all designed to further enhance the Lexus experience. Drivers who do not wish to receive the messages can easily opt out of the service. Those who do wish to receive them can elect whether or not to receive notification of new messages at vehicle start up. 

Lexus Luxury
Lexus has developed another new system for the HS 250h called Lane Keep Assist (LKA) that is designed to help drivers stay within their chosen lane. To accomplish this, LKA combines two basic functions: The first is a lane-departure warning (LDW) function that eases the burden on the driver by smoothly increasing steering torque a small amount to assist in maintaining course. It does not steer the vehicle independently and it requires the driver to maintain active steering control. This function depends on the detection of lane markers by an on-board camera, so LKA is intended for use primarily on well-developed roads and highways.

The second function works in cooperation with the dynamic radar cruise control to alert the driver with an indicator in the multi-information display and gently counter-steers the car toward the center of the lane. The LKA must be turned on by the driver and the system shuts off automatically when it detects driver input through the steering, brake pedal or turn signal operation.

All new Lexus vehicles come with a 48-month/50,000-mile basic limited warranty with roadside assistance for 48-months/unlimited miles. Powertrain and restraint system coverage is provided for 72 months/70,000 miles. Corrosion perforation protection is covered for 72 months, regardless of mileage. The hybrid-related components, including the HV battery, battery-control module, hybrid control module and inverter with converter, are covered for eight years/100,000 miles.

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JPMorgan Predicts One in Five Hybrids by 2020

JPMorgan is predicting a sharp rise in hybrid vehicles by 2020. By 2020, one in five cars sold in the US will be hybrid. That will fuel a worldwide market for hybrid parts which will rise from just over $3 billion last year to over $23 billion by 2020.

Demand will be pushed by stricter government restrictions in the US and Europe. JPMorgan believes 11.28 million hybrid vehicles will be sold in 2020. That will account for 13.3 percent of worldwide sales.

The other half of the demand will come from lowering costs. JPMorgan estimates hybrid system costs; including batteries, motors and computer hardware, will drop from $5,667 to $1,890 per unit by 2020.

Also, don't forget rising fuel costs, which is already seen to be a major force behind hybrid car sales.

Source: Nearly 20% of U.S. cars will be hybrids by 2020, forecast says - Automotive News, Study: Hybrids to make up one in five U.S. car sales by 2020 - [2010 Toyota Prius] - MotorAuthority - Car news, reviews, spy shots, and Global hybrid sales to top 11 million units by 2020

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Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Honda Fit Hybrid for 2010

The Nikkei is reporting (via GCC) that Honda will have a Fit Hybrid on the road in Japan in the fall of 2010. The new Fit will cost less than the Insight, which will make it the cheapest hybrid sold.

According to the Nikkei:

The company had initially planned to introduce the hybrid Fit in 2012, when the vehicle will be fully remodeled. Instead, it opted to develop the hybrid version based on the current subcompact and roll it out sooner to tap the anticipated market expansion.

The hybrid Fit is to be equipped with a 1.3-liter gasoline engine and the same type of hybrid system found in the Insight hybrid. It is expected to deliver a fuel mileage of more than 30km per liter [3.33 L/100km, 71 mpg US] which is similar to what the Insight hybrid offers.
This is big news for anyone who's excited by the renewed competition between Toyota and Honda. If Honda keeps 'lowering' the bar by introducing cheaper hybrid vehicles, Toyota is going to have to continue to follow suit.

It will make it harder for other automakers to break in and compete, though. With a decade of research and development into just their hybrid engines, Toyota and Honda can afford to cut the prices to compete with each other. Ford, GM and so on may not be able to do the same. They'll have to find some other way of making their own hybrids stand out... say the E-REV Chevy Volt way?

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Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Tesla is Worth Half a Billion

Techcrunch points out that Tesla is valued at half a billion dollars, now that Daimler bought 9% of the company. Daimler paid $50 million, so multiply by 10 and you get a value for the entire company. (Source: Tesla Worth More Than Half A Billion Dollars After Daimler Investment). This is more specific than earlier reports which put the investment between $11 million and $99 million.

Daimler and Tesla have worked together before, with Daimler purchasing battery packs and chargers for their first 1,000 electric Smart cars.

TechCrunch says the $350 million federal loan Tesla applied has been informally approved and is close to being announced. They also point out that a short time ago, Tesla was down to $9 million in cash last year.

The Model S will likely benefit the most from the investment by Daimler.

"The Model S program is likely to be built quicker and significantly better" because of Daimler's support, said Michael van der Sande, senior vice president of global sales, service and marketing for Tesla.

The Model S may have 1,000 pre-orders, but that's a lot of value.

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Tuesday, May 19, 2009

President Obama Sets New Fuel Efficiency Standards, 35.5 MPG By 2016

President Obama announced the new fuel economy standard today. Starting in model year 2012, he has set a new national policy for fuel efficiency in vehicles. The ultimate goal is to get to 35.5 mpg in 2016. The president estimates the new fuel economy will save 1.8 billion barrels of oil over the life of the program.

Fuel economy is set to increase by 5% each year. The new standard will surpass the 35 mpg by 2020 set by Congress in 2007.

"In the past, an agreement such as this would have been considered impossible," said President Obama. "That is why this announcement is so important, for it represents not only a change in policy in Washington, but the harbinger of a change in the way business is done in Washington. As a result of this agreement, we will save 1.8 billion barrels of oil over the lifetime of the vehicles sold in the next five years. And at a time of historic crisis in our auto industry, this rule provides the clear certainty that will allow these companies to plan for a future in which they are building the cars of the 21st century."

Automakers Jumping on Board
Automakers are agreeing with the new standards because it will set a national standard, rather than a state-by-state regulation. California and other states will yield to the new federal policy, and automakers will drop the lawsuits surrounding the state's efforts to get a waiver from the EPA to set their own standard. Other states had been set to follow California's lead into setting their own rules (following the California guidelines).

According to the whitehouse press release, "The collaboration of federal agencies also allows for clearer rules for all automakers, instead of three standards (DOT, EPA and a state standard)."

The Auto Alliance, a trade association which represents 11 auto manufacturers including Ford, GM, and Toyota, points out the new standards are expected to include several other rules that they have been fighting for.
  • Preserving Vehicle Diversity: Harmonized NHTSA and EPA standards would be attribute-based, or based on a vehicle’s "footprint." This approach allows for a range of sizes of vehicles to meet consumer needs for passenger and cargo room.
  • Providing Certainty for Long-term Planning: Automakers would know what standards will be through 2016, which is critical in an industry where bringing a product to market typically takes 5-7 years. The National Program is intended to give automakers sufficient lead-time to incorporate technology as part of existing vehicle design schedules, so manufacturers would not have to incur added costs from redesigning all their models at one time.
  • Providing Flexibility in Achieving CO2-Reduction Goals: EPA and NHTSA would consider a range of compliance flexibility measures, such as earned credits, credit trading, air conditioning credits, and credits for using additional technologies that reduce carbon dioxide (CO2).

"President Obama is uniting federal and state governments, the auto industry, labor unions and the environmental community behind a program that will provide for the biggest leap in history to make automobiles more fuel efficient," said Department of Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood. "This program lessens our dependence on oil and is good for America and the planet.

Good and Bad
Probably the most unsettling part of the new rules is how few cars meet the standard today.

According to the president's fact sheet, the new standards are good for everyone.
Good for Consumers:
  • Consumer Savings: This will save American consumers money over the long term in increased fuel efficiency.
  • Consumer Choice: The proposed new national policy will preserve consumer choice. The new rules will not dictate the size of cars, trucks and SUVs that manufacturers can produce; rather it will require that all sizes of vehicles become more energy efficient.
  • A Cleaner Environment: New policy will produce environmental benefits that will reduce air pollution from the reduction of greenhouse gas emissions and other conventional pollutants.

Good for the Economy:
  • Clear Rules: One national policy for all automakers, instead of three standards: a DOT standard, an EPA standard and a California standard that would apply to 13 other states.
  • Lower Costs: This national policy has the potential to lower compliance costs for automakers by avoiding a patchwork of fuel efficiency and pollution rules.
  • Flexibility: The new national policy provides the industry what any business wants: clarity, predictability and certainty concerning the rules. As importantly, it gives them flexibility on how to meet the expected outcomes and the lead time they need to innovate.

Good for the Country:
  • Energy Independence: The new policy will result in yearly 5% increases in efficiency from 2012 through 2016. The end product - - cleaner cars and reduced dependence on oil (1.8 Billion barrels of oil cumulatively, over the lifetime of the program) and significant reductions in greenhouse gas emissions (savings equivalent to taking 177 million of today's cars off the road).
  • Effective Government: Historic collaboration between two agencies; breaking down silos and working towards a common goal and outcomes.
  • Bringing People Together: The national policy has the support of CEOs, Governors, the UAW, the environmental community and others around this first, comprehensive national policy.
Automakers Response:
Ford President and CEO Alan Mulally
“We are pleased President Obama is taking decisive and positive action as we work together toward one national standard for vehicle fuel economy and greenhouse gas emissions that will benefit the environment and the economy.  Today’s announcement signals the achievement of a crucial milestone – an agreement in principle on a national program for increased fuel economy and reduced greenhouse gases. 

This national program will allow us to move forward toward final regulations that all stakeholders can support.  We salute the cooperative efforts of the Obama Administration, the state of California, environmental groups and others that played a constructive role in this process. 

The framework of the national program will give us greater clarity, certainty and flexibility to achieve the nation’s goals.  We will continue to work with the federal agencies to finalize the standards that we are committed to meeting.”  
From GM

General Motors commends President Obama's leadership to establish a harmonized National Program to improve vehicle fuel economy and lower greenhouse gas emissions.

Energy security and climate change are national priorities that require federal leadership and the President's direction makes sense for the country and the industry. Harmonizing a variety of regulations will benefit consumers across America by getting cleaner, more efficient vehicles on the road quicker and more affordably. In turn, GM and the auto industry benefit by having more consistency and certainty to guide our product plans.

GM is fully committed to this new approach. As the President has previously said, all stakeholders must come together and act with a common purpose and sense of urgency to address the nation's energy and environmental priorities. We agree and this collaborative spirit is reflected in our viability plan. Delivering innovation and solutions that will strengthen America's energy security, economy and competitiveness are a central part of GM's reinvention.
From Toyota

"We welcome the Administration’s leadership in developing a coordinated fuel efficiency and greenhouse gas standard. This is something we have encouraged and sought for a very long time," says Jim Lentz, President, Toyota Motor Sales, USA, Inc. 
"The big winner is customers. A unified national program ensures American consumers will have the choice of vehicles they want and need, as well as the fuel efficiency and low emissions they expect, without the potential confusion of multiple standards."
Dave McCurdy, president and CEO, Alliance of Automobile Manufacturers
The Alliance of Automobile Manufacturers is an association of 11 vehicle manufacturers including BMW Group, Chrysler LLC, Ford Motor Company, General Motors, Jaguar Land Rover, Mazda, Mercedes-Benz USA, Mitsubishi Motors, Porsche, Toyota and Volkswagen.

"For seven long years, there has been a debate over whether states or the federal government should regulate autos. President Obama’s announcement ends that old debate by starting a federal rulemaking to set a National Program," said Dave McCurdy, president and CEO, Alliance of Automobile Manufacturers. "Automakers are committed to working with the President to develop a National Program administered by the federal government."

"What’s significant about the announcement is it launches a new beginning, an era of cooperation. The President has succeeded in bringing three regulatory bodies, 15 states, a dozen automakers and many environmental groups to the table," said McCurdy. "We’re all agreeing to work together on a National Program."

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Electric Car Range Issues

Darryl Siry, a former CMO of Tesla Motors, is worried. He's worried about the range given out for electric cars and he's worried for good reason.

If customers are told they are going to get 240 miles of range out of their electric vehicle, but then run out of juice at 200 miles, do you think they're going to be angry about that?

As he puts it, "Every time a single range figure is given, it should have about 3 asterisks next to it."

The three asterisks represent

  1. your mileage may vary.
  2. how “full charge” is defined
  3. The EPA range that is quoted to you is the “beginning of life” range, or “BOL”.
His solution is simple, even if it will be confusing at first for consumers. Manufacturers need to communicate honestly and transparently about the realities of range. And the EPA must establish new guidelines and standards specifically for EVs.

I think he puts it all together very well (Go read it). I just want to add one thing to this discussion. It's not just EVs that are going to have this issue. What about plug-in hybrids, and more specifically, Extended Range Electric Vehicles (E-REV) like the Chevy Volt. If customers start getting 20-30 miles of all electric range, rather than the 40 miles they are being told, who's going to be in trouble?

People have accepted the 'mileage will vary' argument on mpg.  And it would really help if they start giving them two or three numbers to start with.  By giving customers a city/highway mpg figure, you get the point across that these numbers vary depending on conditions. 

Customers, especially well informed early customers, will accept the same argument for electric vehicles.  But only if the manufacturers start talking about it sooner rather than later.

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If Toyota Questions Plug-ins, Then What?

Toyota is wondering if, despite all the talk and hype, plug-in hybrid electric vehicles will really find a market. They are estimating sales of plug-in hybrids could be as few as 3,500 a year. (Source:Toyota Questions Cost, Batteries of Plug-In Hybrids -

Obama has promised 1 million plug-in hybrids on the road by 2015 and the government is throwing billions to develop plug-ins and battery technology, so it's not just a business issue.

The real problem comes from the real-world figures people are seeing in the testing. If a plug-in hybrid gets you 60-70 mpg (or even 50 mpg), instead of the 100+ mpg you might hope for, is the $5-$10K more you would spend on it (mostly for the battery costs) really worth the money over a regular hybrid?

But then, there are the other gains you can expect from a plug-in hybrid production process (or E-REV from GM). The plug-in hybrid, like the hybrid before it, may be thought of as a stepping stone away from gasoline (and oil imports and dependency and so on...). Battery technology and electricity production can be home grown, while oil needs to be imported at the levels needed to move the country around.

So, if we work on producing a plug-in hybrid, you could consider it work to eventually build a better electric car, or possibly in the long run, fuel cells.

Toyota is worried about selling plug-in vehicles because they had such a hard time marketing their electric RAV4. Electric cars don't exactly have a great track record.

But then, the biggest problem with electric cars is their range. Who wants to buy a car that may strand you for lack of fuel if you forgot to 'fuel up' at home. There's no convenient way to plug-in, not unless you have a way of talking others into letting you run a plug into their home or business. And fueling up an electric car isn't exactly something you can do in a few minutes.

Plug-ins (or E-REVs) will be great in that respect, since you can always fill up with the 'other stuff.' Even if you forget to plug it in overnight, you know you can still go. You don't have to worry so much about the electric range, or the battery failing. The gas stations are going to be there.

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Monday, May 18, 2009

Toyota Expects Third Generation Prius to be Competitve

Bob Carter, Vice President and General Manager of Toyota, talks about the third generation Prius. He feels the third generation Prius, priced between $21,000-$27,000 has the best value.

Apparently, Toyota expects the Prius II to be the most popular version, with the right amount of equipment for their customers. Objects such as the Smart Key (driver’s door) and Push Button start; EV, Eco, and Power modes; and the Multi-Informational Display with energy monitor and fuel consumption history are things hybrid owners are expecting from the new Prius. Add in the safety equipment and CD players and at $22,000 it's a "much better value for consumers."

When asked "Did the introductory pricing of the Honda's Insight influence the pricing of Prius?" Carter responded "We're very confident in this car and it's competitiveness vs. Honda." That's not surprising since the latest number of Prius pre-orders seen was between 75,000 and 80,000.

Carter also emphasize the 'full-size' nature of the Prius, capable of seating five adults. He also mentions the higher mpg rating (50 mpg combined) the full hybrid system of the third generation Prius.

See the embedded video below for the full two minute talk.

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Toyota Will Continue to Sell Second Generation Prius in Japan

Even as Toyota releases their third generation Prius to Japan and the US, Toyota is hoping to continue the fight against the lower priced Insight from Honda by offering their second generation Prius as a cheaper option. The older Prius will be offered to fleet customers starting on June 8 with limited options.

The EX Prius will be offered in three colors and will feature the same basic safety and comfort levels of the "G" and "S" grades that it replaces. That includes the dual-stage Supplemental Restraint System (SRS) airbags up front and an electric inverter-controlled automatic air-conditioning system with humidity sensor.

But a lot of basic equipment has become optional, such as hubcaps and front fog lights. Toyota hopes to sell 2,000 units of the EX model, while the newer generation has a sales goal of 10,000 units in Japan.

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Cheap Ford Hybrid E-Mail is a Scam

Ford released a notice letting customers know they are not offering a special program to sell 500 2010 Fusion Hybrids for $15,500 each.

That price tag is just too good to be true. The real MSRP for a 2010 Fusion Hybrid starts at $27,270. Even the sales manager mentioned in the e-mail is not a company employee.

Ford recommends that people delete the email and any attachments.

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4 Out of 5 Want the US to Become a Leader in Hybrids

A recent poll by Johnson Controls survey, conducted by Harris Interactive(R), shows that hybrid technology is seen as a must have for the US. Consumers want hybrid and battery technology to advance here in the US in order to reduce foreign oil dependence, create jobs and reduce the US impact on the environment.

The study was conducted online within the United States by Harris Interactive between March 9 and March 11, 2009 among 2,309 adults ages 18 and older, of whom, 35 (2%) already own a hybrid car. Results were weighted as needed to reflect the composition of the U.S. population of adults ages 18+ using targets for region, age within gender, education, household income, race/ethnicity, and propensity to be online. This online survey is not based on a probability sample and therefore no estimate of theoretical sampling error can be calculated.

According to the numbers, 81% of those surveyed want the US to become a leader in hybrid technology in order to reduce our reliance on foreign oil. 67% want to create jobs through the development of hybrid and battery technology. While 64% are motivated by environmental concerns.

But all is not rosy when it comes to how well hybrids can fare. 80% think cost will prevent people from buying a hybrid car. 49 percent of adults cite reluctance to sacrifice features such as size and horsepower. 42 percent express concerns that hybrids might mean inferior performance, lack of speed, or a poor driving experience.

4 out of 5 believe incentives and tax credits work to encourage people to buy hybrids, and 35% of those who do not already own a hybrid said they would be willing to buy a hybrid if it cost the same. 23% would be willing to pay more, while one-third would expect to pay less.

59% of those surveyed had no idea what the distinctions were between the different types of hybrids, showing that auto makers still have a way to go to educate the buying public. 47% believe lack of understanding about hybrids in general prevents people from buying them.

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Friday, May 15, 2009

Saturn Buyer Wants to Build Hybrids and Plug-in Hybrids Only

As GM moves to sell off Saturn, one of the bidders is thinking they could capitalize on the Saturn brand by turning it into a hybrid and plug-in hybrid brand. (Source: GM set to send terms of sale sheets to potential Saturn buyers | | The Detroit News)

Gint Federas et. al. know that a hybrid/plug-in hybrid brand might be hard to sell with gas selling at $2 a gallon. But they believe oil prices are only going to continue to rise. 

"When it comes time and gas prices hit $3 or $4 a gallon, we'll differentiate ourselves," he said.

Eventually, Federas would turn Saturn into an electric car company.

It's an interesting idea and one that would appeal to the old buyers of Saturn, who were looking for something different from an American car company. It's also not a unique idea. Fisker is looking to build a low-cost plug-in hybrid (Source: Fisker CEO has plans for smaller electric car in 2010 - The Oakland Press Business).

“We’re first doing the four-door and then we’re doing the convertible and then we’re planning some third derivative off the Karma platform. Then we’re planning a high-volume vehicle for a lower price. We’ve applied for a Department of Energy grant. If that loan comes through, we’ll have this vehicle on the road in 29 months,” he said.

No word on what he means by 'low cost,' however.  The Chevy Volt, the highly touted E-REV from GM due out in 2010 will cost $40K or more, while the Prius and Insight are coming in at half the price.  If real world fuel economy reports from plug-in hybrids continue to come in at 60-70 mpg, rather than the 100 mpg people are hoping for, that price difference is going to make it hard to sell a high production plug-in hybrid.

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Prius Pre-Sales Up to 75,000

Toyota continues to roll up the pre-orders, with the latest tally up at 75,000. That sort of demand is a clear indicator that hybrid car sales are about to recover.

Where the Prius goes, hybrid sales go.

Honda, in the meantime, may be talking to battery suppliers about increasing the number of Insights they build. Sales have exceeded the 5,000 they expected each month in Japan (Honda sold 19,475 units so far in Japan), although sales in the US have not been as stellar, with only 2 thousand sold in the first month.

Honda will hold off on any production changes until after they see how the new Prius will affect their sales.

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Thursday, May 14, 2009

Pennsylvania Borough Rejects Free Hybrid Parking

In Doyleston, a proposal to allow free parking for hybrid cars was shot down by the local council. Asst. Borough Manager Phil Ehlinger supported the proposal, and believed it would encourage people to buy hybrid cars.

Council members disagreed, and unanimously voted to reject the proposal.

Oftentimes, this is a Republican/Democrat issue, with some pols pointing out that the cost of buying a hybrid means the people who are getting the benefit are the ones least likely to need it.

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Monday, May 11, 2009

Hybrid Buses Not Saving Money in Honolulu

A new study in Honolulu says the hybrid buses are not saving money. If a diesel bus costs $380,000 and a hybrid bus costs $1 million, then I say that's a pretty obvious conclusion. (Source: Study: Hybrid Buses Aren't Saving Money - Honolulu News Story - KITV Honolulu)

But some of the money being used to buy the hybrid buses are coming from outside, making the hybrid buses more cost effective.

The buses were having issues with the batteries. They were not calibrated correctly and the buses were breaking down. The problem has been resolved, but I'm sure the breakdowns did not make them popular.

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Honda Insight Becomes Top Selling Car in Japan for April

The Honda Insight has become the top selling car among new vehicle registrations in Japan for the month of April, if you exclude mini-vehicles - under 660cc.  They sold 10,481 units.  That's more than they sold in February and March put together, and it's the first time a hybrid model has become the best selling vehicle in Japan for any monthly sales period.

Honda also points out the fit was the industry's best selling car among new vehicle registrations in Japan for calendar year 2008 and the fiscal year ended March 31, 2009. The Honda Fit was also the industry’s best-selling car for the month of March 2009, for the fourth consecutive month since December 2008, until it was displaced by Insight to become the industry’s second best-selling car in April 2009,with sales of 9,443 units. It is the first time Honda has occupied the industry’s top two best-selling car positions.

Sales Results
(since sales start)
Monthly ranking among new vehicle registrations in Japan
February 2009 Sales Result 4,906 units 10th
March 2009 Sales Result 4,088 units 21st
April 2009 Sales Result 10,481 units 1st

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GM Safety Recall on 27 Thousand SUVs Including the Hybrids

GM is recalling the 2009 Escalade, Tahoe, Yukon, Avalanche, Colorado, and Canyon, including the hybrids, for an issue in the fuel system control modules. Water can get in through an 'adhesive separation' which could lead to a stall.

If water does get in, GM says it could cause a short or open circuit, illumination of the service engine soon lamp, setting of diagnostic trouble codes or the engine may be hard to start, may not start or may stall increasing the risk of a crash.

Vehicle Make / Model:     Model Year(s):
     CADILLAC / ESCALADE     2009
     CHEVROLET / COLORADO     2009
     CHEVROLET / SUBURBAN     2009
     CHEVROLET / TAHOE     2009
     GMC / CANYON     2009
     GMC / YUKON     2009
     GMC / YUKON XL     2009
Manufacturer: GENERAL MOTORS CORP. Mfr's Report Date: MAY 06, 2009
NHTSA CAMPAIGN ID Number: 09V154000 NHTSA Action Number: N/A
Potential Number of Units Affected: 27188

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Friday, May 08, 2009

Cash for Clunkers Needs to Do More

According to the MPG Illusion blog, the Cash for Clunkers Bill, as it is right now, does not go far enough to improve things. I noted the same thing, but my thoughts were rather vague on the subject. The Duke University researchers at MPG Illusion go much farther on illustrating and proving the point.

GPM - The MPG Illusion: Cash for Clunkers and the 1 GPM Principle

We argue for a 1 GPM principle: A new car needs to save 1 gallon of gas every 100 miles compared to the original car to be carbon neutral. The new car will then offset the CO2 emissions from its own production in 70,000 miles of driving, which would occur in 4 to 7 years for most drivers.

Hopefully, the bill will be either edited or the Senate will prevail using their version before it is passed.

Go read the whole article.  Found via  Green Car Reports

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Nevada Passes HOV Access for Hybrids

AB163 has been signed into law, allowing the Department of Transportation in Nevada to allow low emission and energy efficient vehicle access to the HOV lanes even with just one person in the car. As of now, that's about 5 miles of road, but it will shortly be expanded to 15 miles.

The intention is to provide an HOV access for plug-in hybrid vehicles.

The lawmakers gave the Dept. of Transportation an out by changing the language to say they 'may' instead of 'shall' allow hybrids into the HOV lane. That will give them the option of disallowing the program if the HOV lanes become too crowded.

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History of the Toyota Prius and Toyota Camry

Toyota just released their passenger car chronology. For those of you interested in their hybrid car development, enjoy.  First is the Prius, then the Camry.  All years are Model Years unless noted.  MY refers to Model Year while CY refers to Calendar Year.

Series Chronology

1997 - Prius goes on sale in Japan becoming the world’s first mass-produced
gas/electric hybrid vehicle
2000 - Prius is launched in the U.S market as a 2001 model year
2001 - American Council for an Energy Efficient Economy named Prius “Greenest gasoline-powered passenger sedan in the United States”
2001 - Society of Automotive Engineers named it “Best Engineered Car of 2001”
2001 - Ward's Auto World magazine named the Prius gas/electric hybrid system one of the "10 Best Engines for 2001"
2001 - Named one of Environmental Protection Agency’s “Best Compact Cars” in the 2001 Fuel Economy Guide
2001 -’s Reader’s Choice Awards – First Place for Eco Cars
2001 - AutoPacific’s Vehicle Satisfaction Score (VSS) award for Alternative Fuel Vehicle
2002 - Prius became available with four factory options.
2002 - AutoPacific’s Vehicle Satisfaction Score (VSS) award for “Green” car
2002 - Consumer Reports names Prius “Best Driving Green”
2002 - Reader’s Choice Award in Eco Car segment.
2004 - All-new, second-generation Prius is introduced.
2004 - Motor Trend Magazine names Prius “Car of the Year”
2004 - “North American Car of the Year”; “Car of the Year,” Motor Trend
2004 - “10 Best Cars,” Car and Driver Magazine
2004 - “Ten Best Engines,” Ward’s Auto World
2004 - “Design of the Year,”Automobile Magazine
2004 - “25 Best Products of the Year,” Fortune Magazine
2004 - “Best of What’s New,” Popular Science Magazine
2004 - Driver’s Choice Award “Best Eco-Friendly,” Motor Week
2004 - “Top Picks for 2004” Green Car, Consumer Reports
2004 - Best Engineered Vehicle for 2004, Automotive Engineering International
2004 - Awarded a Gold in the 2004 Industrial Design Excellence Awards
2004 - “Consumers’ Most Significant Vehicle of the Year for 2004,” Consumer Reports
2005 - Consumer Reports “Most Satisfying Vehicle” – Small Car, April 2005 issue
2005 - Minor changes to standard equipment.
2005 - “Best Car Value Under $23,000,” IntelliChoice’s Best Overall Value of the Year Award
2005 - Consumer Reports “Top Pick” – Green Car, “Most Reliable” – Hybrid, listed as “Best
Vehicles for $25,000 or Less” – Cars; Kelly Blue Book’s “2006 Best Resale Value” – Hatchback
2006 - “Greener Choices 2006” and “Best of 2006,” American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy
2006 - “Best Value in America” for Midsize Cars under $23,000, Vincentric
2007 - Touring Edition is introduced
2007 - Given the “Editor’s Choice Award,”
2007 - “Best Deal Award,” – Easy Being Green category.
2007 - Named “Top Pick” in Green Car category by Consumer Reports.
2007 - “Best Car Value Under $23,000,” Kelly Blue Book
2007 - “Best Green Cars,”
2008 - A Standard Package replaces the Base Package in 2008 Prius
2008 - Named “Most Satisfying Vehicle Overall” by Consumer Reports
2008 - Awarded number one in “Top 10 Green Cars” by Kelly Blue Book
2009 - Named top ten winner for “Best Resale Value” by Kelley Blue Book
2009 - “Best Car Value Under $24,000,” IntelliChoice’s Best Overall Value of the Year Award
2009 - “Best Bets,”
2010 - All-new, third-generation Prius is introduced.

The Toyota Prius, the world’s first mass-produced hybrid vehicle, was a breakthrough in combining an efficient, powerful gasoline-fueled internal combustion engine and a clean, quiet electric motor. Configured as a stylish, roomy, five-passenger family sedan, the Prius went on sale in the U.S. in August, 2000 with an MSRP of $19,995.

Prius carried an EPA label fuel economy rating of 52 miles per gallon city and 45 highway, and an SULEV (super ultra low emission vehicle) certification - about 75 percent cleaner than ULEV and nearly 90 percent cleaner than LEV for smog forming exhaust gases.

Offered initially in one trim level, standard equipment on the Prius includes ABS brakes, climate-control air conditioning, power windows, door locks and mirrors, an AM/FM/cassette stereo system, an eight-year/100,000-mile battery and hybrid system warranty. Prius also comes with complementary seven-day/24-hour roadside assistance and three-year basic maintenance programs.

The 2002 Prius carried over unchanged with the exception of four new factory options - cruise control, daytime running lights, SRS side-impact airbags for driver and front passenger and DVD-based navigation system. Two new exterior colors were added, Brilliant Blue Pearl and Blue Moon Pearl.

The Prius remained unchanged for the 2003 model year. For exterior colors, Blue Moon Pearl was discontinued and Black became available.

For 2004, the all-new second-generation Toyota Prius gas/electric hybrid vehicle featured significantly more power and performance than the previous model, as well as best-in-class fuel economy and best-in-market emissions performance.

Larger and better in every metric of comparison, Prius launched Toyota’s second generation of gas/electric hybrid technology and is the first hybrid vehicle available to provide the room, comfort and features of a midsize sedan.

The 2004 Prius was the first Toyota product to employ Hybrid Synergy Drive, the latest in hybrid powertrain technology. The new system produces more power from both the gasoline engine and the electric motor, giving the new Prius acceleration comparable to a 4-cylinder midsize car.

Like the original Toyota Hybrid System (THS) employed in the previous model, Hybrid Synergy Drive is defined as a full hybrid system. Unlike competitive systems currently on the market, the full hybrid system is capable of operating in gas or electric modes, as well as a mode that combines the power of the gas engine and electric motor.

The Prius entered 2005 with just minor change.

The 2006 Prius received freshened front and rear lamps, advanced airbags, Tire Pressure Monitoring System and four new exterior colors: Magnetic Gray, Barcelona Red, Silver Metallic, and Silver Pine Mica. In addition, a leather-trim interior and steering wheel, rear camera and MP3-media capability and universal mini-jack connector became available. A new Touring Edition model for 2007 offered a more engaging driving experience. In addition, the 2007 Prius gained standard driver and front passenger seat-mounted side airbags and front and rear side curtain airbags, which were previously optional.

The 2008 Prius received a detail change: a Standard Package replaced the Base Package. This deleted cruise control, tonneau cover, wheel trim ring, heated mirrors and seat-back pocket.

For 2009, the Prius carries over unchanged.

For 2010, the all-new third-generation Toyota Prius gas/electric hybrid vehicle featured significantly more power and performance with a bold and aggressive new design, true midsize comfort and convenience, leading edge technology, as well as world-class fuel economy.

What does it mean?

Prius is Latin for “to go before,” suggesting it is a predecessor of cars to come.

Where is it built?

The first-generation Prius was built at the Motomachi Plant in Toyota City, Japan. The second-generation is built at Tsutsumi Plant also in Toyota City, Japan and Toyota Auto Body in Aichi, Japan.


Series Chronology
1983 - Introduced as replacement for Corona.
1983-1994 - Among “Best Buys” by Consumers Digest.
1985 - “Most Trouble-Free Car in America,” Consumer's Digest.
1987 - Second generation introduced.
1987 - All Camrys powered by 2.0L DOHC engines.
1987 - Introduction of All-Trac to Camry line.
1987 - Introduction of Camry wagon.
1987 - Toyota Motor Manufacturing, Inc. (TMM) announced.
1988 - First year of U.S.-built Camrys.
1988 - V6 added to Camry line.
1988-1990 - Rated “Most Trouble-Free Compact Car,” by Consumer's Digest.
1990 - Family Circle “Family Car of the Year.”
1990 - TMM receives J.D. Power Gold Plant Award.
1990 - Named “Best in Class” in Initial Quality by J.D. Power & Associates.
1990 - Among “Top Ten Models in Initial Quality,” J.D. Power & Associates.
1991 - TMM receives J.D. Power Silver Plant Award.
1991 - Among “Top Ten Models in Initial Quality,” J.D. Power & Associates.
1992 - Third generation introduced.
1992 - Wins Family Circle “Family Car of the Year.”
1992 - New Camry moves to mid-size classification.
1992 - Among “Top Ten Models in Initial Quality,” J.D. Power & Associates.
1992 - Among “Ten Best Cars,” Car and Driver.
1992 - “Import Car of the Year,” Automundo Magazine.
1992-1993 - Camry ranks in Top-10 in Initial Quality, J.D. Power.
1993 - Coupe model introduced.
1993 - TMM receives J.D. Power Gold Plant Award.
1993 - Named “Best in Price-Class,” J.D. Power.
1993 - Among “Ten Best Cars,” Car and Driver.
1993 - Named “All Star” by Automobile Magazine.
1993-1994 - “Family Car of the Year” Sedan Finalist, Family Circle.
1994 - All-aluminum V6 engine introduced.
1994 - TMM receives J.D. Power Gold Plant Award.
1994 - “Top Ten Models in Initial Quality,” J.D. Power & Associates.
1994 - “Best Overall Value” – Subcompact/Wagon over $15,000, Intellichoice
1994 - “Best Overall Value” – Compact Class over $16,500, Intellichoice
1995 - Minor front and rear fascia changes.
1996 - “Best Buy in Family Car Segment,” Consumer’s Digest.
1996 - “Best of What’s New,” Popular Science
1997 - Coupe and Wagon discontinued.
1997 - Fourth generation introduced.
1997 - Camry is best-selling-car in America for both ’97 model and calendar year
1997 - Among “Best Buys,” Consumer’s Digest
1997 - “Best Family Sedan,” Consumer Reports
1997 - Among “Most Reliable Used Vehicles, MY ‘89-95,” Consumer Reports
1997 - Among “Ten Best Cars,” Car and Driver
1997 - Named “Automobile All Star,” Automobile Magazine
1997 - “Golden Wheel Award Vehicle of the Year,” African Americans on Wheels
1997 - “Total Quality Award – Compact Car,” Strategic Vision, Inc.
1998 - Camry Solara sport coupe is introduced for ’99 Model Year.
1998 - Camry is best-selling car in America for second consecutive year
1998 - Among “Best Buys,” Consumer’s Digest
1999 - “Best Passenger Car in Initial Quality,” J.D. Power
1999 - Among “Best Buys,” Consumer’s Digest
1999 - Rated “A Best Overall Value in Midsize Class,” IntelliChoice, Inc.
Complete Car Cost Guide
1999 - Camry is best-selling car in America for third consecutive year
2000 - “Best Buy,” Consumer’s Digest
2000 - Among Consumer Guide’s Best Buy Midsize Car
2000 - Among “Best Picks for Safety,” Money Magazine
2000 - “Best Family Car,” Consumer Reports
2000 - Camry is best-selling car in America for fourth consecutive year
2001 - Special “Gallery Series” edition available on the Camry LE
2001 - AutoPacific’s Vehicle Satisfaction Score (VSS) award for Mid-Size Car
2001 - AutoWeek’s America’s Best Award
2001 - Among Consumer Guide’s Best Buy Midsize Car
2002 - Fifth generation Camry introduced
2002 - “Best Family Sedan” in Money Magazine’s Car Guide 2002 (March 2002 Issue)
2002 - Received the International Carwash Association Most Washable Car award
2002 - Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) – “Best Pick” rating for 40-mile per hour front offset crash test
2002 - Detroit News names Camry “Car of the Year.”
2002 - Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) names Camry “Best Pick.”
2002 - International Car Wash Association award for “Most Washable Car.”
2002 - Camry is best-selling car in America for fifth time in the last six years
2003 - Beginning in January 2003, Camry receives a PZEV engine for models with four-cylinder engines and automatic transmissions sold in California.
2003 - Camry is best-selling car in America for sixth time in the last seven years (CY 2003)
2003 - Among Consumer Guide’s Best Buy Midsize Car
2004 - Changes to engine and drivetrain for XLE and SE models; Limited Edition Camry
2004 - “Best Bet,” The Car Book 2004
2004 - Camry listed as “Best Sedan” and Camry LE named “Best Vehicles for $25,000 or Less,” car – Consumer Reports
2004 - “Best Cars for Families” sedans category, AAA/Parents magazine
2004 - Among Consumer Guide’s Best Buy Midsize Car
2005 - 5-speed automatic transmission and VSC available for 4-cylinder models; ABS standard for all; minor style freshening.
2005 - Among Consumer Guide’s 2005 Best Buy Midsize Cars
2005 - 4-cylinder Camry on Consumer Reports list for “Most Reliable,” Sedans, Camry LE 4-cylinder and V6 listed as “Best Vehicles for $25,000 or Less,” Cars
2005 - Camry is best-selling car in America for the fourth year in a row and eighth time in the past nine years.
2006 - Among Consumer Guide’s 2006 Best Buy Midsize Cars
2006 - Car Book 2006 “Best Bet”
2007 - Sixth generation Camry introduced
2007 - Camry Hybrid is first Toyota hybrid to be built in the U.S.
2007 - Camry Hybrid named “Eco-Friendly Car of the Year” by Lifestyle Awards
2007 - Camry Hybrid named “Best Environmentally-Friendly Car for Women” by FAMA-AUTOS
2007 - Among MotorWeek “Drivers’ Choice” award winners
2007 - Camry Hybrid named “ Lifestyle Award Winner”Most Eco-Friendly Car of the Year category.
2007 - Camry given the “Editor’s Choice Award” by – Commuters category.
2007 - Given the “Editor’s Choice Award” by – First Car: Solid Choices under $20,000 category.
2007 - Given the “Editor’s Choice Award” by – Small Families category.
2007 - Camry Hybrid named one of the “Top Five Green Vehicles for 2007” by Green Car Journal Online.
2007 - Camry named one of the “Best Cars for Families,” AAA/Parents Magazine.
2007 - “Car of the Year,” Motor Trend
2007 - “Hybrid of the Year,” Autobytel
2007 - “Best New Midsize Car,” Autobytel
2007 - “Green Car of the Year,” Green Car Journal
2007 - “International Car of the Year,” Road & Travel
2007 - “Best of the Best,” (Hybrid Version) The Detroit News
2008 - Camry named “Best-Selling Automobile” by Los Angeles Business Journal
2008 - Consumer Choice Award – “#1 Overall Most Requested New Vehicle” by Autobytel/
2008 - Consumer Choice Award – “Most Requested New Passenger Car” by Autobytel/
2008 - Consumer Reports “Most Satisfying” – Family Cars Category
2008 - Named top hybrid car for 2008 by U.S. News and World Report
2009 - U.S. News & World Report’s 2009 Best Car for the money award
2009 - Named Best New Family Vehicle by Kelley Blue Book’s
2009 - “Best Bets,”
2010 – 2.5-liter four-cylinder and six-speed automatic transmission; restyle front and rear.
Introduced in 1983 to replace the Corona, the Camry soon took its place as Toyota's value- and volume-leader.  Camry was introduced as a front-wheel drive vehicle available in either four-door sedan or five-door hatchback configuration. It won acclaim from Consumer's Digest in 1986 as a "Best Buy", and has remained on the list since then.

In 1986, Toyota broke ground on an all-new production facility in Georgetown, Ky., Toyota Motor Manufacturing, Inc. (TMM), with the first U.S.-built Camry rolling out of the plant in 1988.

The 1987 model year saw the introduction of the second generation Camry. With it, Toyota also introduced a new 2.0L 16-valve four-cylinder engine, followed in 1988 by a new 2.5L 24-valve V6. The 1987 model year also saw the release of a station wagon to replace the hatchback, and the option of All-Trac, Toyota's full-time all-wheel-drive system, on all models.

Camry grew up for 1992. The third-generation model was larger in every dimension than the previous model, and Camry became classified as "midsize." Engines were now 2.2L four-cylinder units (producing almost as much power as the previous V6, but with four-cylinder economy), and 3.0L V-6s. Due to dwindling sales and high engineering costs, Toyota dropped the All-Trac model. Domestic production soared and TMM became the sole production facility world-wide for the Camry station wagon.

Safety had always been an important consideration for the Camry, and in 1994, it was available with dual front airbags as standard equipment. The vehicle also met 1997 side-impact standards three years before it was required to.

1994 also saw the addition of the U.S.-built Camry coupe to the lineup. Available with both four- and six-cylinder engines and in DX, LE and SE trim levels, it brought a new audience to Camry.

All-new for 1997, the new Camry was quieter, lighter and more powerful with better ride quality and improved handling.

Both of Camry’s engines received horsepower and torque increases. The new CE base-grade (replacing DX nomenclature) reintroduced the five-speed manual V6.

With an additional two inches in wheelbase, a lowered beltline and swept-back windshield, the 1997 Camry’s cabin was more spacious and inviting. NVH was reduced and new convenience features included separate rear headrests, dual rear cupholders, front overhead storage console, a glove box volume increase of 29% and a second power port for cellular phones and other electronic equipment. The power mast antenna was eliminated on the LE and XLE models and replaced with an on-glass antenna.

The 1997 Camry was the safest Camry yet, meeting or exceeding all current and foreseeable crash test criteria for North America, Europe and Asia. New safety features included enhanced impact protection, a three-point seatbelt to the center rear seat, and an optional Child Restraint System (CRS) with fabric seats. Traction control, offered for the first time on a front-engine front-wheel drive Toyota, was an available option for 1997. ABS was now standard on all models except the four-cylinder CE, in which it could be ordered as a low-cost option.

For 1998, both four- and six-cylinder engines (with the exception of the five-speed/V6 combination) were rated as Low Emission Vehicles with the EPA. Other changes to the line were the introduction of the redesigned sound system head units found in all 1998 Toyotas and two new colors.

For 2000, the Camry sedan received exterior styling enhancements with a new front fascia that features a new grille and bumper design and multi-reflector headlamps. Camry’s styling featured new rear combination taillights with wider horizontal reflectors and a new bumper design for a smoother appearance. Camry’s side protection molding was also redesigned, with XLE models adding a chrome accent. The exterior enhancements were capped off with new 15-inch wheel covers for the LE grade and 16-inch aluminum alloy wheels for the XLE V6.

The interior received convenience upgrades in the area of audio systems, new fabric seats and value packages that include leather-trimmed interiors and power seats. The interior also received simulated wood trim as standard equipment.

For 2001, the Camry offered a special “Gallery Series” edition on the Camry LE grade. It featured a two-tone exterior paint, upgraded two-tone seat fabric, leather-wrapped steering wheel, leather-wrapped shift knob, carbon fiber trimmed center stack and shift plate, chrome accent door lock levers and HVAC vents, chrome-tipped exhaust, “Gallery Series” badging, five-spoke aluminum wheels and chrome painted LE wheel covers.

The 2002 Camry was completely redesigned. It featured the first all-new platform in 10 years, making it roomier, quieter and more powerful. A new SE model grade was available with a sportier look. An all-new 2.4L four-cylinder with variable valve timing (VVT-i) powered the Camry. It generated 157 horsepower and achieved 23/32 mpg city/highway fuel economy. Camry also offered a 3.0L V6 that generated 192 horsepower. The V6 achieved 20/28 mpg city/highway. Both engines were EPA-certified Ultra Low Emission Vehicles (ULEV). Three model grades were offered - LE, SE and XLE. A DVD-based navigation system was newly available. This GPS system had a faster calculating time than all of its competitors in the U.S. market.

The 2003 Camry entered the new model year unchanged, with the exception of standard fog lamps on the XLE grade and available power adjustable pedals on all trim levels with automatic transmission.

The 2004 Camry received a few upgrades to select models. The SE V6 model received a new 3.3L V6 engine with VVT-i that produced 225 horsepower and 222 lb-ft of torque. XLE and SE models became available with a five-speed super electronically-controlled automatic transmission with intelligence (SECT-i). A Limited Edition Camry LE model featured a unique exterior as well as interior enhancements.

The 2005 Camry featured freshened exterior styling with redesigned headlights, taillights, grille and wheels. The interior receives several enhancements, including Optitron instrument gauge meters, and, for the LE model, chrome interior door handles and gearshift base. The LE and XLE grades featured new seat fabric, while leather seating surfaces were standard on the XLE V6 model.

On four-cylinder models, a five-speed automatic transmission replaced the four-speed automatic as an option. Anti-lock Brakes (ABS) became standard on all models, and four-cylinder models could for the first time be equipped with the optional Vehicle Stability Control (VSC) system.

The 2006 Camry was a carry-over with the exception of navigation becoming available as a stand-alone option on SE V6 models.

The sixth generation, Camry was redesigned for the 2007 model year. It featured a longer wheelbase and wider track for a comfortable ride and roomy interior.

The Camry was available in four grades, CE, LE, SE and XLE and for the first time as a hybrid model featuring Toyota’s Hybrid Synergy Drive.

The CE, LE, XLE and Camry Hybrid rode on 16-inch steel or aluminum wheels, while the sporty SE got unique aluminum 17-inch wheels. Models with the V6 engine have dual exhaust with chrome tips.

Standard features on CE models included air conditioning with a pollen filter, power windows and door locks, cruise control, Optitron gauges, tire-pressure monitor system and six-speaker 160-watt digital AM/FM/CD audio system with an auxiliary audio jack.

SE models had sport-tuned suspension calibrated for a firmer ride and better handling, black honeycomb-style grille, ground-effects body enhancement, smoked tint halogen headlamps, unique sport-trimmed interior and amber-colored Optitron gauges.

XLE content included upgraded dual-zone automatic climate control with steering-wheel controls, a premium 440-watt JBL audio system with Bluetooth® technology for hands-free calling, and reclining rear seats. Four-cylinder XLE models come standard with special seat fabric designed to be gentle on the skin.

The Camry Hybrid was certified as an Advanced Technology Partial Zero Emissions Vehicle (AT-PZEV). Its heating and air conditioning featured Plasmacluster ionizer technology which helped reduce airborne mold spores, microbe, fungi, odor, germs and bacteria inside the passenger cabin.

With the exception of updated darker wood trim on XLE grade cars, the 2008 Camry was carried over from 2007.

For 2009, the Camry was largely carried over with the exception of a change of an optional wheel finish on the LE grade. CE grade was renamed Camry grade.

For 2010, the Camry sedan is receiving exterior styling enhancements with a new front fascia that features a new grille and bumper design and larger projection headlamps. Camry’s styling features new rear combination taillights a new bumper design. The exterior enhancements are capped off with new alloys for XLE and SE and new wheel covers for LE.

The interior is receiving auto up/down power window with jam protection on all four door, available USB port for auxiliary music source and Bluetooth on LE and SE models, available Smart Key on XLE four-cylinder and SE with automatic transmission. Camry Hybrid is receiving enhanced meter cluster and Fraichir cloth seating surfaces.

What does it mean?

Camry: From the Japanese Kan-Muri, meaning "crown".

Where is it built?

All Camrys are built at the Tsutsumi Plant in Toyota City, Japan, and at TMMK in Georgetown, Ky.

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