Archive for January, 2010

Toyota loses $21B in market share in one week, plans media blitz this week

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After a long spell as the apple of the media's eye, Toyota is now officially in the bad news barrel. So far the Japanese automaker has announced the recall of 5.3 million vehicles for floor mat issues that may lead to unintended acceleration and a separate recall of 2.3 million vehicles for sticking gas pedals (watch the explanatory video). The entire ordeal has been a public relations nightmare, and as you'd expect, Toyota's stock is taking a hit.

Last week alone shares in the automaker plunged by a jaw-dropping 14 percent. That's a drop of $21 billion (with a B) in market value. The lion's share of the losses are likely due to investors' unease at how the the mounting recalls are playing out, but we suspect that part of the issue has to do with Toyota's handling of the recalls to date.

Last fall Toyota appeared to be calling the original recall of 3.8 million vehicles for floor mat issues a voluntary matter, only to be rebuked by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), which insisted that the recall was mandatory. More recently Toyota announced that it was shipping new pedals to factories, only to change its mind and send the parts to dealerships after an angry response from dealers and the public. Mizuno Credit Advisory director Tatsuya Mizuno reportedly told Business Week that Toyota has "wasted too much time without doing anything," adding that the automaker used to have foresight for taking action but is now, "very far behind the curve."

Other than a 75 second television interview by Toyota president Akio Toyoda in Davos, Switzerland, Toyota hasn't said much of anything about the recalls. That will reportedly change this week as the Japanese automaker hits the news circuit in an attempt to allay customer fear about the recalls. Toyota U.S.A president Jim Lentz will appear on the Today Show Monday morning, followed by a conference call with other media outlets. BusinessWeek reports that Toyota may also be close to announcing a fix for at least one of the recalls, which should help investors feel a bit more comfortable that the situation is being handled.

Toyota also took out full-page ads in 20 major markets to explain why it has temporarily suspended production at several plants. Oddly, the full page ad didn't focus on the recalls. The ad (shown above, click to enlarge) says "A temporary pause. To put you first," in very big letters, followed by an explanation as to why the plants were temporarily shut down in comparatively tiny letters. The ad doesn't give any specifics about the recall, but it directs customers to the automaker's website for information about the Toyota recall.

While Toyota's ad blitz will no doubt be crucial to winning back its very faithful customers and the company's considerable reputation for quality and reliability, still more hurdles lie ahead. The next major step will be the announcement of a fix, followed by a potentially embarrassing February 25 meeting with the House Energy and Commerce Committee to discuss the unintended acceleration claims and the NHTSA's handling of the matter. Beyond that Toyota will need to absolutely nail the execution of the recall and get as many vehicles repaired as quickly as possible. Lets just hope dealers can fix this problem fast than Toyota can explain it.

[Source: Business Week]

Toyota loses $21B in market share in one week, plans media blitz this week originally appeared on Autoblog on Sun, 31 Jan 2010 23:00:00 EST. Please see our terms for use of feeds.

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Renault F1 launches R30 with back to the future livery [w/video]

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Renault R30 F1 car
Renault R30 F1 challenger - Click above for high-res image gallery. Follow the jump to watch video.

On Sunday the Renault F1 team revealed its 2010 race car with a color scheme that hearkens back to the team's debut in the late 1970s. The yellow-and-black livery was the traditional pattern used by Renault on its Formula One and Le Mans sports cars before the company began taking on title sponsors.

Of course, the downside of the retro look is that the team still has not signed a title sponsor to replace insurance company ING, which called it quits last summer after the team was found guilty of having Nelson Piquet Jr. deliberately crash during a race in late 2008.

The automaker now owns only a minority stake in the team after having sold most of it to Genii Capital.

At the launch of the new racer, Renault also announced that Russian Vitaly Petrov will run alongside ex-Sauber driver Robert Kubica in the second car. Petrov is the first Russian to get a full-time F1 drive. A video and press release are included after the jump.



[Source: Renault]

Continue reading Renault F1 launches R30 with back to the future livery [w/video]

Renault F1 launches R30 with back to the future livery [w/video] originally appeared on Autoblog on Sun, 31 Jan 2010 20:03:00 EST. Please see our terms for use of feeds.

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Eh-Spec? Acura Canada mailing shows 2010 TL A-Spec

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At the very least, our friends to the north will soon have another Acura TL trim level to choose from. Reader Steve F. dropped us a line to let us know he received this mailing from Acura, which included an announcement a new TL A-Spec model. What is it? Sadly, it isn't as exciting as it might sound. Start with a loaded Acura TL SH all-wheel drive with the tech package, and add 19-inch wheels, summer rubber, an aero kit, and A-Spec badges, and friends, you have the TL A-Spec. In short: it's an appearance package. Canadians, it's coming this spring to your neck of the woods. Will we see it Stateside as well? Don't know, and we won't lose sleep wondering about it, either. Thanks for the tip, Steve!

[Source: Acura Canada]

Eh-Spec? Acura Canada mailing shows 2010 TL A-Spec originally appeared on Autoblog on Sun, 31 Jan 2010 19:26:00 EST. Please see our terms for use of feeds.

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Event Alert: February 2010 Calendar of Automotive Events

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Just like January equals Detroit, February means Chicago for auto show lovers. The major players will again descend upon McCormick Place in the Windy City, along the banks of the still-frozen Lake Michigan. Other auto shows in February include the Canadian International AutoShow in Toronto, plus regional shows in Philadelphia and Syracuse. Hot Rodders have the Sacramento Autorama to look forward to, while classic car aficionados have Boca Raton and The Desert Classic in La Quinta to get the Concours d' Elegance season going.

The American motorsports season kicked off yesterday with the Rolex 24 at Daytona, but other series will kick it into gear in February. The Bud Shootout signals the return of bump-drafts as NASCAR starts the 2010 season with this all-star lead-in to Daytona, and drag racing action explodes back onto the scene with the 50th Annual Winternationals in Pomona. Meanwhile, Formula 1 and ALMS teams are busy practicing, getting ready for their season openers in March.

Besides those automotive events, there's Valentine's Day and the 2010 Winter Olympics in Vancouver to keep non-car people occupied in February. If none of those events appeal to you, check out our Google Calendar after the jump for even more listings, all with detailed info and links. And please don't forget to use the comments to add or modify listings.

Continue reading Event Alert: February 2010 Calendar of Automotive Events

Event Alert: February 2010 Calendar of Automotive Events originally appeared on Autoblog on Sun, 31 Jan 2010 17:25:00 EST. Please see our terms for use of feeds.

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Attention Kmart Shoppers: Buy 20 Hot Wheels, get a cool ‘62 Vette by mail

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Hot Wheels Kmart Promo

You know what we like almost as much as real cars? Toy cars. It's gotten to the point where there mere existence of Hot Wheels, Matchbox, and the like seem like an ongoing conspiracy to suck an extra few bucks out of our wallets with every trip to the store.

Furthering that belief is Hot Wheels' new Kmart promo, wherein if you buy 20 cars from the basic assortment (they need to match certain SKUs, just FYI), you can then mail in your stack of receipts to receive the special edition '62 Corvette you see above. (A gallery of more detailed pics can be seen at HotWheelsCollectors.com.) It arrives on a special blister pack that notes its collector's edition status, and is even shipped in a Kar Keepers protective case to help ensure that the heavy-handed employees at your local sorting station don't wreck it in transit.

To qualify for the promotion, you must buy your 20 eligible Hot Wheels cars between Feb. 10 and Mar. 10, 2010. Additional details, official rules, etc. are available at HotWheelsCollectors.com. Now please excuse us - there's a Jackson burning a hole in our pocket, and a Kmart within easy driving distance.

[Source: HotWheelsCollectors.com]

Attention Kmart Shoppers: Buy 20 Hot Wheels, get a cool '62 Vette by mail originally appeared on Autoblog on Sun, 31 Jan 2010 15:43:00 EST. Please see our terms for use of feeds.

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Yamaha pulls the covers off 2010 FZ8 naked sportbike

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The upper-middleweight naked bike segment, which currently has entrants from the likes of BMW, Aprilia and Ducati, is about to get an good ol' injection of Japanese know-how as Yamaha readies its upcoming new FZ8 for production. Yamaha apparently sees room for a machine that splits the difference between the smaller FZ6 (and FZ6R) and the full FZ1 naked literbike.

As far as we're aware, Yamaha has confirmed neither the FZ8 nor its fully-faired FZ8R sibling for North America (we'll keep you posted), but it seems possible the models could make it Stateside if there's sufficient interest... which is why we're bringing you this initial official image of the FZ8. So, what do you think?

Judging from the photo, the FZ8 appears to be based on the current FZ1, and internet rumors suggest the 800cc mill will be a downsized version of the former R1 engine with an identical stroke and smaller bore. We'll know soon enough - the official unveiling is scheduled for March 12 - but in the meantime, enjoy the teaser.

[Source: Yamaha, Asphalt & Rubber]

Yamaha pulls the covers off 2010 FZ8 naked sportbike originally appeared on Autoblog on Sun, 31 Jan 2010 14:18:00 EST. Please see our terms for use of feeds.

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ThrottleGate: First class-action lawsuit filed against Toyota over pedal recall

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With Toyota's woes seemingly multiplying by the day, you knew it was just a matter of time before the lawyers arrived on scene. Cue two law firms, Parker Waichman Alonso and the Becnel Law Firm, that are joining forces in a bid to sue Toyota's pants off.

The suit hopes to attain class action status and is "intended to benefit all residents of the United States who purchased a Toyota vehicle of model years 2005, 2006, 2007, 2008, 2009, and/or 2010 that is subject to the recalls." How many cars is that? We don't have a total off the top of our head, but considering the Camry has been the best selling car in the U.S. for all six of those years, and the Corolla has been number three or four over the course of that same time frame, we'll go ahead and say the answer is a staggeringly large number.

But hang on one minute: Since all the affected cars have been recalled by Toyota and will (eventually) be repaired, what could the two law firms possibly be suing ToMoCo for? Away we go:
[Parker Waichman Alonso] and the [Becnel Law Firm allege] that, as a result of these recalls, Toyota owners lost the use of their vehicles, and sustained, among things, economic losses and severe emotional distress. The complaint charges Toyota with breach of implied warranty and negligence, and seeks compensatory, punitive and exemplary damages for the Class, as well as equitable and declaratory relief. It also asks the Court to enjoin Toyota from implementing any fixes in the accelerator pedals of the subject vehicles without approval from the NHTSA.
There you have it. And yes, they really did mention emotional distress.

[Source: The Auto Channel | Image: Corbis]

ThrottleGate: First class-action lawsuit filed against Toyota over pedal recall originally appeared on Autoblog on Sun, 31 Jan 2010 12:36:00 EST. Please see our terms for use of feeds.

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J.D. Power data suggests January U.S. new-vehicle retail sales decline from last month

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After gathering real-time transaction data from 8,900 automotive franchisees across the U.S., J.D. Power and Associates predicts new-vehicle retail sales will have declined for January 2010 compared to one year ago. January's new-vehicle sales are expected to come in at 500,900 units, which represents a seasonally adjusted annualized rate (SAAR) of 7.9 million units. In January of 2009, the SAAR was 8.8 million units. December 2009 was a particularly strong sales month - thanks to heavy marketing and aggressive incentive programs - making it a tough act to follow. To wit:
"January is typically a weak selling month, but this month is particularly impacted by December's strong close and extra selling weekend," said Jeff Schuster, executive director of global forecasting at J.D. Power and Associates. "However, the sales pace has been improving as January continues, which is an encouraging sign for the recovering industry."
Not to be confused with new-vehicle retail sales, fleet sales are expected to increase significantly when compared to the same slow period last year. When fleet- and new-vehicle units are combined, the month's outlook is more promising. According to J.D. Power, total sales for January 2010 are projected at 659,000 units, up nine percent from the same month last year. Carried forward, the global marketing firm is predicting 2010 total vehicles sales at 11.5 million - and these numbers may be even higher as the industry recovers, thereby loosening credit and improving leasing availability. Check out the press release after the jump.

[Source: J.D. Power and Associates]

Continue reading J.D. Power data suggests January U.S. new-vehicle retail sales decline from last month

J.D. Power data suggests January U.S. new-vehicle retail sales decline from last month originally appeared on Autoblog on Sun, 31 Jan 2010 11:16:00 EST. Please see our terms for use of feeds.

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Toyota gas pedal recall woes spread to Peugeot / Citroën in Europe

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The massive Toyota sticking-accelerator pedal recall has spread from the United States to Europe and even beyond Toyota-branded vehicles. Approximately 90,000 Peugeot 107 and Citroën C1 minicars have been added to the list of afflicted models. PSA, the parent of Peugeot and Citroën, has a joint venture with Toyota in the Czech Republic that produces the 107, C1 and the related Toyota Aygo.

The minis share the same electronic pedal assembly design used in the 2.3 million Toyotas being recalled in North America, as well a 1.8 million vehicles in Europe. In addition to the Aygo, Toyota has identified the iQ, Yaris, Auris, Corolla, Verso, Avensis and Rav4 in Europe. In total Toyota is recalling 7.5 million vehicles worldwide.

We don't know for sure but it seems unlikely with this many vehicles involved around the world that CTS is the sole supplier of these parts. If CTS is not the only supplier then it appears likely that the issue is more of a design problem than a manufacturing issue at one plant or supplier. It is also possible that it could be a software issue unrelated to the hardware itself.

Update: We checked with Toyota spokesman Curt McAllister who confirmed that Denso is the other major supplier of this pedal assembly.

[Source: The Guardian]

Toyota gas pedal recall woes spread to Peugeot / Citroën in Europe originally appeared on Autoblog on Sun, 31 Jan 2010 09:27:00 EST. Please see our terms for use of feeds.

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Pastrana puts competition on ice at Rally America Sno*Drift

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Rally America Sno*Drift 2010 - Click above for high-res image gallery

Travis Pastrana has no shortage of critics who claim the daredevil is skating on thin ice. Okay, that was a terrible segue into this year's Sno*Drift, the opening event in the Rally America Championship series, but yes, Pastrana and co-driver Christian Edstrom did skate to a fourth straight Sno*Drift victory on Saturday, trumping the second place team of Antoine L'Estage and co-driver Nathalie Richard by more than a minute. Not too bad for a guy who just had surgery for a broken collar bone. Meanwhile, William Bacon and Peter Watt finished third overall as the highest-placing privateers. Ken Block, sporting his trademark goatee and a new Ford Fiesta rally car, retired after just seven stages due to suspension failure.

Organized around the snowy gravel roads of Northern Lower Michigan, Sno*Drift 2010 wasn't so much with the snow thanks to a warm spell and thorough soaking of rain, followed by a quick dip into sub-zero temperatures-all within a week of race day. Roads turned into rivers of glare ice, and since studded tires aren't allowed in the series, automotive hilarity reminiscent of Snoopy on Ice was the order of the day. Just ask Pastrana's team mate Dave Mirra, who crossed the final mark literally dragging his Subie's front bumper and headlights thanks to a late-stage disagreement between himself, Sir Issac Newton, and a tree.

More to come on Pastrana, Block, and Rally America; in the meantime spy the Rally America gallery while we search Wikipedia for frost bite remedies and tips on removing champagne from blue jeans.



Photos by Christopher Smith / Copyright (C)2010 Weblogs, Inc.

Pastrana puts competition on ice at Rally America Sno*Drift originally appeared on Autoblog on Sun, 31 Jan 2010 02:15:00 EST. Please see our terms for use of feeds.

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