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The AutoGuide News Blog is your source for breaking stories from the auto industry. Delivering news immediately, the AutoGuide Blog is constantly updated with the latest information, photos and video from manufacturers, auto shows, the aftermarket and professional racing.
It’s the SIM-LEI EV, built by the SIM Company, founded in 2009 at Japan’s Keio University. What separates it from the other EVs on the block is SIM’spreference to use four electric motors, one per wheel, rather than a central motor under the hood. The car should have debuted in March, 2011 but couldn’t meet that date after the earthquake devastation of last year.
Range is the biggest selling point. The SIM-LEI is said to last up to 206 miles in city traffic, thanks in part to the car having a minimal 0.19 coefficient of drag, which bests cars like the Nissan Leaf and Mitsubishi i which ballpark around 100 miles.
Most people interested in buying an EV will probably agree that range is important and having double the capacity of the competition is pretty sweet, but there’s something else that makes the SIM-LEI even more interesting. It scoots from 0-60 mph in just 4.8 seconds. For some perspective, a 2010 Mustang GT does it in 4.9.
Sure, the 93 mph top speed isn’t going to do much to your heart rate, but having motors distributed to all four corners mean this car will feel like it’s got suction cups for wheels around tight corners. Say what you will, but that’s a lot of fun.
[Source: Left Lane News]
If you thought the risk of buying a flood car after Hurricane Katrina was serious, imagine having your health threatened just from being near the car. That’s exactly what’s been happening in Japan, where unsuspecting consumers are being sold dangerously radioactive cars that belonged to people living in Fukushima and the surrounding area after the earthquake and tsunami that destroyed the prefecture’s nuclear power plant in March.
According to harbor authorities, 660 cars have been banned thus far for export because of unsafe radion levels. Rather than destroy the hazardous merchandise, some Japanese car dealers are simply swapping license plates to cover their stock’s origin according to The Asahi Shimbun newspaper.
One re-registered van was found to be emitting 110 microsieverts of radiation an hour— for perspective, the national limit for export to other countries is is 0.3 microsieverts an hour.
An unnamed dealer from the western city of Osaka bought the notorious vehicle at auction and decided to sell it despite the risk because he said he couldn’t afford to take the loss.
“I decontaminated repeatedly after the test and retested the filter of the air conditioner, the wipers and tires, replacing them thoroughly, but the radiation level dropped only to 30 microsieverts per hour,” he said.
[Source: FoxNews.com Autos]
Japan’s wealthy elite brought out their wallets this past weekend for a more than worthy cause; rebuilding the country they call home. At an event hosted by Ferrari Chairman Luca di Montezemolo and attended by Italian ambassador Vincenzo Petrone and Japanese Minister of Industry Banri Kaieda, a total of $724,000 was raised to help the disaster relief efforts in Japan.
With numerous items up for bidding at the auction, the big ticket item was the first Ferrari FF to be sold in the country, which went to Tokyo architect Masaharu Seno.
Held in the city of Ishinomaki, and attended by its mayor, the proceeds from the auction will be used to held build a new school for the children in the devastated city.
Mazda has officially announced that the assembly plants in Japan are back to normal operational levels. The Japanese automaker predicts that it will be able to achieve a domestic production volume of 900,000 units during the current fiscal year (April 2011- March 2012). The company is also predicting sales revenue of 2.19 trillion yen based on a global sales target of 1.305 million units during the current fiscal year.
David Klan, Senior Director of Sales, Marketing & Regional Operations at Mazda Canada Inc said:“Our return to normal production in Japan testifies to the courage and ingenuity of the Japanese people and our colleagues there,”. He also explained that, “This puts us in a strong position to sustain and grow our business in Canada, recognizing both the great line-up we have in showrooms today, and also the superb new vehicles coming with SKYACTIV Technology.”
Toyota will be hiring between 3,000 and 4,000 temporary workers from mid-July as the company plans to increase production in October.
This is great news considering Japanese carmakers’ domestic production dropeed 60 percent in April as Toyota’s output in the country plunged 78 percent.
Honda will be hiring 1,000 temporary workers as the company plans to resume normal production numbers as well.
Toyota’s plants suffered a 50-percent production decline in April and May but are running at 90 percent capacity this month. The plan is to reach 100 percent of planned production levels by July.
“Hiring temporary workers shows that the problem with parts supply is being resolved and that the industry is on a solid recovery path,” explained Takeshi Miyao an analyst at the consulting company Carnorama in Tokyo. “There are a lot of back orders and without these additional workers, they won’t be able to catch up fast enough.”
Nissan has also begun hiring around 200 temporary workers to help restore normal production levels.
[Source: Automotive News]
The Japanese Earthquake disaster of March 11, 2011, has wreaked havoc all around the world and has affected Volkswagen by interrupting supply of their backup cameras. Consumers that want a rear view camera fitted to their VW may have to wait for shipments to resume.
The VW models affected include the CC Lux Plus, Lux Limited and VR6, all Touraeg models and the Tiguan SEL with premium navigation. On VW salesman said the German automaker is on the hunt for a new supplier. When Volkswagen was approached for an official statement, they said the matter was being investigated.
North American Honda production will return to normal in August, earlier than expected, the company announced in a statement today.
The Japanese automaker has accelerated their recovery following the March 11th earthquake and tsunami in Japan. Every Honda model will resume regualar production in August, except the 2012 Civic. The company expects full production of the Civic to resume in the fall.
When the supply of parts from Japan improves, production will ramp up on a step-by-step, plant-by-plant, and model-by-model basis. Models including the 4-cylinder Accord, CR-V and Acura RDX, as well as all V-6 models including the Accord, Accord Crosstour, Odyssey, Pilot, Ridgeline, and the Acura TL, MDX and ZDX will return to 100 percent production.
“The light at the end of the tunnel is glowing brighter for us, represented by this significant improvement in our production situation,” said John Mendel, executive vice president of American Honda Motor Co., Inc. “Throughout this crisis, Honda has been fighting to achieve a speedy recovery, while maintaining a focus on our longer-term plans for continued growth in sales and production in order to meet the growing needs of our customers.”
Honda, which employs 13,400 in Ohio, said in a statement that it has managed to avoid any layoffs in any of its 14 plants in North America during the parts shortage.
The U.S National Highway Traffic Safety Administration has closed its investigation into the power steering system in the 2009-2010 Toyota Corolla with no defects found.
Furthermore, the NHTSA also said Toyota’s electronic throttles were not to blame for the 2009-2010 recall fiasco. However, Toyota is still dealing with major setbacks with the parts shortage caused by the Japanese earthquake disaster, which will undoubtedly hurt their efforts to rebound in the sales charts.
Honda has scheduled the June 16 release of its all new Fit Shuttle. The new station-wagon-like variant of the popular Fit subcompact will be offered with both a regular 4-cylinder engine or a hybrid version, the Nikkei business daily reported.
Increased production at the Suzuka factory in Mie Prefecture began in early May and has progressed enough to support the June 16 release date.
Actual deliveries to customers are expected to begin in July, the paper said.
Honda is eager to launch the vehicle, three months after its planned debut on March 18, disrupted by the deadly earthquake.
[Source: Automotive News]
Nissan is looking to strengthen some key plants in an effort to minimize damage from future earthquakes starting with the heavily damaged Iwaki engine plant in the Fukushima prefecture.
The Iwaki plant is being repaired ahead of schedule, receiving a reinforced foundation costing $37 million USD. Carlos Ghosn, CEO of Renault and Nissan, stated that the facility will be repaired first out of necessity.
Even with the high cost to strengthen the foundation of plants, studies have shown that the next big earthquake could come sonner than later. The Prime Minister of Japan recently shut down the Chubu Electric Power Co. nuclear plant because studies show an 87 percent likelihood of a high- magnitude earthquake occurring in the next 30 years.
The upcoming Toyota Prius V, a pseudo-minivan version of Toyota’s wildly popular Prius hybrid, may be delayed for up to a year because of battery shortages resulting from the March 11th earthquake and tsunami in Japan.
Toyota initially planned to launch the vehicle in April, but the resulting supply chain issues have thrown their plans into turmoil. Toyota claimed that the battery shortage was an issue even before the earthquake, but the resulting disruption means that production levels will not reach normal levels for a number of months.
The new battery is a lithium-ion model, which is more compact, and available on the seven-seater Prius V, which will not be coming to North America. Toyota is said to be capable of producing 1,000 cars equipped with this battery, compared to 2,000 per month with the standard nickel-metal hydride unit. But Toyota is hoping to sell 2,000 examples of the Prius V in North America each month, a figure that will have to be adjusted in light of the current situation.
[Source: The Detroit News]
If there’s anything Toyota execs can be happy about for the most recent quarter, it’s that for them it’s Q4, marking an end to what has been a troubling 12 months for the Japanese auto giant. Just released data shows Toyota Q4 profit fell off a cliff, dropping 77 percent to “just” $314 million. The decline comes as sales dropped 12 percent as a result of the recent earthquake and tsunami shuttered factories and disrupted parts supplies.
And yet as bad as things seem, Toyota isn’t tuning into a pre-bankruptcy General Motors – not yet anyway. New income for the fiscal year was actually up 95 percent, as sales increased, even if just by 0.2 percent. Operating profit tripled, despite the strong yen which is hurting overseas profits.
Low Q4 sales due to reduced output proved to be the largest factor affecting the slight increase, with sales for the quarter down 12 percent.
Year-end numbers have yet to be released, but Bloomberg estimates a 311 billion yet net income for the year, or just under $4 billion U.S. Toyota has said it will not issue an earnings forecast for the next fiscal year.
Toyota is working to restore output and is currently at 70 percent of pre-quake capacity.
With global sales of 8.4 million units last year, some estimates put total 2011 production at around 6.5 million units. Recently company execs admitted that Toyota will likely give up its spot as the world’s largest automaker, with General Motors set to reclaim the lead. If sales are limited to 6.5 million, Toyota could slip to third behind Volkswagen.
Toyota Canada has cut its sales projections by a third and warned dealers that the supply of new vehicles is starting to be choked off as the company feels the effects of the March 11th earthquake that rocked northern Japan.
While Toyota sent two memos to dealers regarding the revised sales forecast, the company refused to comment on the matter. “We have the availability to meet customer needs during our busiest retail period,” Toyota spokesperson Sandy DiFelice told The Globe and Mail. “We put out targets all the time. The dealers use those as a guide and work to exceed them.”
Summer is a busy season for the Canadian auto industry, with May and June typically the busiest months for auto sales. Toyota products are especially popular in Canada, where gas prices are higher than the United States, and the company’s extensive lineup of hybrids and fuel efficient vehicles are well received.
Toyota is also said to be offering dealers financial help to assist them through the anticipated lean periods, allowing them to get funding for vehicle incentives, marketing campagins and lease extensions for existing customers. Toyota will also allow dealers to suspend payments if they hold mortgages with the company’s financial arm, and will offer favorable interest rates to finance the purchase of new and used vehicles for the dealership.
[Source: The Globe and Mail]
Honda will delay the launch of their next generation CR-V crossover due to continued production delays, and supplies of their 2012 Civic will also be delayed as Honda’s North American production continues to run at well below capacity amid the after effects of Japan’s natural disasters.
In a letter to Honda’s dealers, U.S. executive vice-president John Mendel said “Recovery from this crisis is difficult and constantly evolving, most notably the challenge of obtaining a few key components required to maintain production at appropriate levels. Overall production volume will be at significantly reduced levels as we continue production adjustments through the summer months.”
Honda expects full production to resume much later in the year, with the CR-V being produced at Honda’s Canadian plant in addition to its East Liberty, Ohio facility. Acura‘s MDX and RDX will also be shifted to other plants in Alabama and Ohio, but the company says that the shifts are unrelated to problems related to their parts supply.
Hyundai boosted its quarterly profit by 46 percent, and managed to outsell Honda, whose production was hampered by the earthquake and tsunami that hit Japan in March.
Hyundai managed to sell 919,000 units in the quarter, compared to 860,000 for Honda. Honda’s earnings, output and total sales were down markedly, in line with other Japanese auto makers who have been forced to curtail production. While Honda expects production to be down until June, analysts say that the Japanese auto industry’s slump may help Hyundai surpass other Japanese OEM’s like Toyota and Nissan.
[Source: The Detroit News]
Like other Japanese automakers, Toyota continues to be affected deeply by the earthquake and tsunami in Japan. Now the company is saying that it will be at least 6 months before they can resume production at levels before the disasters.
By November, Toyota is hoping that production, both overseas and American, will return to normal—with suppliers bringing in parts at a steady rate and factory work suspensions slowing down. Toyota is the first major automaker to make such a prediction.
“By telling dealers the timing of the recovery, they can have a better conversation with their customers,” said Akio Toyoda, the company’s president. “Dealers right now cannot talk to their customers about delivery timing. They can’t talk about specifics. Sales people are having a difficult time.”
Right now, Japanese production is right around 50% of capability. The normal rate, Toyota believes, will resume by July as issues in the supply chain are slowly, gradually worked out.
[Source: Automotive News]
Nearly 5 months in to the calendar year, Lexus has admitted that it will not be able to sustain its lead in the luxury car sales race, due to tight supplies of vehicles and parts from Japan.
With dealers down to a 30 day supply of cars (compared to a usual 60 or 90 day supply), the situation is so drastic that regional marketing campaigns are being ended due to a dearth of new vehicles to sell. Lexus is offering to extend the leases of current customer’s vehicles, and is discouraging dealers from attempting to inflate prices of the limited supply of cars, with Lexus general manager Mark Templin stating “…that’s not the way we do business.”
Many vehicles, such as the newly introduced CT200h hybrid are nearly sold out, while the Japanese factories that build the majority of Lexus vehicles are not expected to reach full capacity until November.
[Source: Automotive News]
General Motors is set to become the world’s largest automaker yet again, reclaiming the title from Toyota, whose operations have been hit hard by a production slowdown brought on by Japan’s natural disasters.
With only a 30,000 vehicle gap in sales between the two companies at the end of 2010, GM should easily reclaim the lead, as 30,000 cars essentially amounts to a day’s worth of global sales. Meanwhile, Toyota claims that normal production schedules won’t return until November, proving a crucial blow to the automaker’s overall foothold in the marketplace.
Dealers may be in for an arduous summer as Japan’s auto parts shortage is on track to choke off new vehicle deliveries for months, with dealers potentially receiving no new vehicles until September.
The best case scenario will be a resumption of production on May 9th, after Japan’s traditional holiday break. But manufacturers are still unable to comment due to the unstable nature Japan’s auto industry, which is still reeling from the natural disasters that rocked the country in March.
“We are currently planning North American production for next month based on parts availability, so we are not yet ready to project our situation,” Mike Goss, a spokesman for Toyota Motor Engineering & Manufacturing North America told Automotive News. “We are planning the best we can, but everything depends upon parts. It’s a very fluid situation, changing daily.” The paper reports that Toyota will continue Japanese production at 50 percent capacity, and reassess the situation after June 6th.
Nissan declined to publicly comment, but told dealers that it will only receive 7,500 vehicles from Japan and Mexico in May, down from the usual 40,000. Dealers are beginning to fret over inventory levels, which will only take them through the end of May. Honda, as well as Toyota dealers are reporting similarly reduced numbers, while even General Motors is said to be producing and allocating vehicles in a conservative manner, due to uncertainty over parts supplies and the overall marketplace.
[Source: Automotive News]