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Friday, 17 December 2010

Japanese Car Design Corner / 日本自動車設計角: Proper mobile version of "Japanese Car Design Corn...

Japanese Car Design Corner / 日本自動車設計角: Proper mobile version of "Japanese Car Design Corn...: "Blogger has finally released the highly anticipated mobile version today and although it's still beta, you can now visit the mobile version ..."

Tuesday, 12 October 2010

New blog about Japanese cars!

Although the "Automotive Design Corner" blog started initially with the aim to include news and info about British cars, during the last few months, news regarding Japanese cars have also been posted.

I have now decided to create a new blog dedicated to Japanese cars and you can visit the new blog by clicking here.

Tuesday, 9 February 2010

Toyota announces recall of 3rd-gen Prius

Toyota today announced a global recall (earlier post) on the latest, third-generation Prius built before 27 January 2010. To date, there have been no accidents linked to this issue reported in Europe, and in UK alone, the recall involves 8,500 cars.

Although no other Toyota or Lexus models are affected by this latest recall action in Europe, Toyota Sai (JDM) and Lexus HS250h (USDM) are also affected.

Thursday, 4 February 2010

Japan orders Toyota to investigate complaints about Prius' braking performance

It seems that another headache (earlier post) has just popped up for Toyota. Japan's Ministry of Transportation ordered Toyota to investigate a number of consumer complaints involving the brakes of the new Prius (トヨタプリウス). This is after the Ministry received 14 complaints since last July (in one of the 14 complaints, a Prius crashed head on into another car at an intersection).

Friday, 22 January 2010

In the race to bring Leaf to the market, Nissan engineers cut corners?!

Nissan's CEO, Carlos Ghosen, is very eager to win the EV race by bringing first to the market the first mass-produced EV. But, the are sacrifices to be made in order to achieve this, as the article explains.

Let's face it, the biggest competitor is GM's Volt, which will be launched about the same time. Carlos Ghosen recently told Bloomberg, “The engineers will always tell you, ‘Wait a little more,’ and if you keep playing this game, you never launch any product.”

Since cars are complicated pieces of engineering, it's easy to understand that EVs present numerous fresh challenges  to the engineers. So, what are the shortcuts? I have summarized them below in order to be easier to identify.

Tuesday, 19 January 2010

Honda CEO challenges R&D team to build a better hybrid than Prius

Honda Motor Co’s CEO Takanobu Ito has challenged his R&D team to produce a hybrid that exceeds the fuel-economy of the Toyota Prius. Ito said that the new hybrid won’t necessarily be a next-generation version of the Honda Insight, but may be another vehicle that will join the company’s hybrid lineup.

“We want to develop and expand our hybrids,” Ito told Automotive News during an interview at the Detroit auto show. “We made some major sacrifices to shift people and resources to do that.”

He said that Honda is currently concentrating on expanding its small-vehicle hybrid platform and said that the Japanese automaker’s large-vehicle hybrid platform is not ready.

Honda’s top management has been disappointed by the sales of the Insight since its U.S. launch last March. Even though the Insight undercuts the Toyota Prius by $2,500, it’s fuel-economy rating of 40/43 mpg (city/highway) falls short of the Prius’ 51/48 rating.

Source: egmCarTech

Friday, 15 January 2010

Toyota Prius G Sports concept revealed in Tokyo

Being one of the favorites at this year's Tokyo Auto Salon that opened Friday in Japan, Toyota couldn't but present a concept model of its latest generation Prius hybrid. Like the FT-86 G Sports Concept that also made its world premiere today at Japan's largest tuning show, the Prius G Sports Concept previews a new series of performance models based on series production cars called "G Sports" that will be sold through Toyota's dealers in Japan.

The G Sports package includes all kinds of cosmetic and performance goodies, but curiously enough, none that concern the gasoline-electric hybrid powertrain...

What it does get is a full body aero kit that adds a completely new nose, a different rear bumper that houses the twin tail pipes of the sport exhaust system, rear wheel covers, side skirts, carbon fiber mirrors and a rear wing.

The LED daytime running lights and the larger alloys shod in beefier wheels complete the exterior mods.

Inside, the Prius G Sports Concept gets a pair of body-hugging Recaro seats, a leather steering wheel accented by red stitching, aluminum pedals, new dashboard trim as well as 'G-Sports' branded gear lever and start button.

The performance upgrades include a new sport suspension that lowers the hybrid car's ride height by 30mm, underbody aero parts, a sport braking system and what Google translates as "reinforced body".

Source: Carscoop

Wednesday, 13 January 2010

Honda Insight Sports Modulo concept revealed in Tokyo

Leveraging the Honda Insight hybrid vehicle's advanced aerodynamic performance and fun, comfortable driving, the Honda Insight Sports Modulo Concept, exhibited at the 2010 Tokyo Auto Salon, expresses the joy of driving with the theme of "Exciting Eco." With its advanced styling featuring chiseled lines, the Modulo concept vehicle demonstrates the new value that Sports Modulo customization has to offer a next-generation hybrid.


Tuesday, 12 January 2010

Toyota unveils FT-CH concept in Detroit

Toyota today unveiled the FT-CH dedicated hybrid concept at the North American International Auto Show (NAIAS) in Detroit.  The FT-CH is a concept that meets Toyota’s strategy to offer a wider variety of full hybrid choices to its customers, in addition to the introduction of plug-in hybrids (PHVs) and battery electrics (EVs) in model year 2012, and hydrogen fuel cell vehicles (FCHVs) in 2015 in global markets.

The CH stands for compact hybrid as in compact class and it’s a concept that can best be defined by comparing it with the mid-size class Prius. The FT-CH captures the spirit and functionality of a car that thrives in the inner-city environment; sized right to be nimble, responsive and maneuverable. 

The FT-CH was styled at Toyota’s European Design and Development (ED²) centre in Nice, France.  Compared to Prius, it is 22 inches shorter in overall length, yet loses less than an inch in overall width. In spite of its compact external dimensions, FT-CH was designed for maximum passenger comfort and interior roominess, with an imaginative sense of style.

ED² designers looked to capture the vivid, high-energy appeal of what has come to be called the 8-bit generation. Popularized in the early 80’s, 8-bit microprocessor technology dominated the budding home video game industry. Today, 8-bit is considered a specific retro-style that is embraced by such things as 8-bit genre music and 8-bit inspired art.

The direct reference to the 8-bit generation is meant to be fun and innovative, colourful and stylish, with strong appeal to young buyers.  Lighter in weight and even more fuel efficient than Prius, the concept specifically targets a lower price point than Prius, thus appealing to a younger, less-affluent buyer demographic.

In the early 2010s, Toyota plans to sell a million hybrids per year globally, a majority of those in North America. To accomplish this, Toyota will launch eight all new hybrid models in the USA over the next few years*.  These will not include next generation versions of current hybrids; instead, they will be all new dedicated hybrid vehicles, or all new hybrid versions of existing petrol engine models.

Toyota also plans to introduce plug-in hybrids (PHVs) and battery electrics (EVs) to global markets in 2012, and hydrogen fuel cell vehicles (FCHVs) in 2015.

* Eight new hybrid models to be introduced into USA market

Source: Toyota GB

Honda CR-Z debuts in Detroit

Back in December, a number of photos from the official CR-Z brochure leaked in Japan, along with technical specification (earlier post). Now though, the all-new Honda CR-Z made its world premiere at the North American International Auto Show in Detroit.

According to Tom Gardner, Head of Marketing, Honda (UK), "kart-like handling and direct steering will make it great fun to drive". I hope he is right...

  • World’s first 6-speed manual hybrid car
  • Wide track, short wheelbase chassis for agile and responsive handling
  • All-new, sporty, aerodynamic, 2+2 coupe form
  • The 1.5-litre engine, combined with the power and torque of the IMA parallel hybrid system,  gives an overall power output of 124 PS and 174 Nm of torque
  • Emissions of 117 g/km* and fuel economy of 56.4mpg*
  • Unique 3-Mode Drive System to tailor steering, throttle response and IMA assistance as the driver requires
  • Flexible 2+2 seating arrangement in European and Japanese models only
  • The European version of the CR-Z has daytime running lights (DTRLs) with eight LEDs that bring out the lower line of the sweeping headlights
  • The European version of the CR-Z goes on sale in the UK in summer 2010, and will debut at the Geneva Auto Show 2010 in March
* EU Combined cycle

Friday, 8 January 2010

Toyota Prius becomes Japan's top seller for first time since introduction

Toyota Motor Corp.’s Prius hybrid became Japan’s top-selling automobile last year for the first time since its debut in 1997 as government incentives spurred demand for fuel-efficient vehicles.

Prius sales almost tripled to 208,876 in 2009 from a year earlier, according to the Japan Automobile Dealers Association. The model outpaced Suzuki Motor Corp.’s WagonR minicar, which had been the top-selling model for five consecutive years, and Honda Motor Co.’s Fit compact.

Government stimulus introduced last year saves buyers as much as 394,500 yen ($4,229) on the cheapest Prius, priced at 2.05 million yen. The model may not retain its No. 1 spot after the support ends on Sept. 30, said Yoshiaki Kawano, an analyst at auto consulting company CSM Worldwide in Tokyo.

“The Prius was one of the models that benefited the most,” Kawano said. “Sales will certainly drop from October.”

Government aid helped Japan’s vehicle sales rise for five consecutive months through December.

“The government’s tax cuts and subsidies provided a tailwind” for Prius sales, Toyota’s Executive Vice President Yoichiro Ichimaru said in an interview on Jan. 5.

Hiroyoshi Ogawa, who runs a Yokohama computer-systems company, bought a Prius for his business in May to replace his Avensis sedan.

‘Government Aid’

“We can get government aid to buy the car and on top of that, as we drive it, our company image benefits from being seen as eco-friendly,” Ogawa, 54, said.

Toyota shares rose 2.9 percent to close at 3,960 yen on the Tokyo Stock Exchange. The Nikkei 225 Stock Average added 1.1 percent.

The third-generation Prius, priced between 2.05 million yen and 3.27 million yen, is 7 percent more fuel efficient than the previous version, with a fuel economy of 38 kilometers per liter (89 miles per gallon), according to testing rules established by the Japanese government.

Rival Honda’s Insight hybrid, which was introduced in February, gets about 30 kilometers per liter. The new Prius has a fuel efficiency of 51 miles per gallon in city driving, according to U.S. Environmental Protection Agency data.

Many Japanese buyers have replaced bigger, luxury cars such as Mark X and Crown sedans for the Prius, said Hiromi Inoue, a sales manager at Tokyo Toyopet, Japan’s biggest seller of Toyota hybrids.

Hybrid ‘Pride’

“With the hybrid, they don’t have to throw away their pride even though the size is smaller,” he said.

Toyota earns about 200,000 yen in operating profit on the sale of one Prius compared with about 1 million yen on a Crown sedan and 2 million yen on a Lexus LS sedan, said Koji Endo, managing director of advanced Research Japan in Tokyo. Toyota spokesman Takanori Yokoi declined to say how much profit the Prius generates.

Toyota has probably spent more than 1 trillion yen developing the hybrid since the project began in the 1990s, said Mamoru Kato, an analyst at Tokai Tokyo Research Center in Nagoya, Japan. The company only began making profit on the current model, the Prius’s third generation, he said.

Operating Profit

“The increase of Prius sales at the cost of other models is negative” for the company, Endo said. “Toyota will face a decline in operating profit.”

Price competition from hybrid-making rivals has also made it more difficult for Toyota to capitalize on the model’s success.

When Toyota started taking orders for the third-generation Prius in April, President Akio Toyoda slashed the price of the entry-level Prius by 12 percent to 2.05 million yen. The cut was needed to compete with Honda’s redesigned Insight Hybrid, priced from 1.89 million yen.

Toyota aims to sell 1 million hybrids a year between 2010 and 2020 and offer hybrid versions of all its models in the decade from 2020 to 2030, according to the company.

Other carmakers including Nissan Motor Co., Japan’s third- largest carmaker, are also introducing fuel-efficient vehicles, potentially making Toyota’s Prius less appealing. Honda plans to introduce two more hybrids this year.

Japan’s auto sales excluding minicars rose 37 percent last month, the fifth straight increase after recovering from a yearlong slide in August. The nation’s 2009 auto sales dropped 9.1 percent, the sixth straight decline.

Source: Bloomberg

Tuesday, 5 January 2010

Honda Insight tuned by Tommy Kaira...

Following Mugen, KenStyle and Exclusive Zeus, now Tommy Kaira has also available parts for the Honda Insight.