September 25, 2012

Toyota Drops Plans for Widespread Sales of EV Minicar
Automotive News reports that Toyota Motor Corp. has scrapped plans for widespread sales of a new all-electric minicar, saying it had misread the market and the ability of still-emerging battery technology to meet consumer demands. Toyota, which had already taken a more conservative view of the market for battery-powered cars than rivals General Motors Co. and Nissan Motor Co., said it would only sell about 100 battery-powered eQ vehicles in the United States and Japan in an extremely limited release. The automaker had announced plans to sell several thousand of the vehicles per year when it unveiled the eQ as an pure-electric variant of its iQ minicar in 2010. "Two years later, there are many difficulties," Takeshi Uchiyamada, Toyota's vice chairman and the engineer who oversees vehicle development, told reporters on today. By dropping plans for a second electric vehicle in its line-up, Toyota cast more doubt on an alternative to the combustion engine that has been both lauded for its oil-saving potential and criticized for its heavy reliance on government subsidies in key markets like the United States. Click here for more on Toyota’s plans to scrap widespread sales strategies for its EV minicar.

Hyundai Puts an Elantra in Your Virtual Driveway
Working with several platforms facilitated by current technology, Hyundai has launched its “Driveway Decision Maker” virtual configurator for its line of 2013 Elantra models. Visitors can pick their model and color of choice, including the bread and butter sedan, the stylish coupe, and the sporty and practical Elantra GT 5-door, then “drive” the car to their home address to see what it would look like in their driveway. You can then share the snapshot of your new virtual car in front of your house (or apartment) on Facebook, Twitter, or Pinterest. Finally, visitors can enter a sweepstakes for a chance to turn their virtual car into a real one. Those how are interested can go to the site www.pickmyelantra.com, choose your desired model and color, enter your address, and take your Hyundai Elantra on a virtual drive to your home. The editors at Automobile Magazine say they tried it themselves, and after a minute or two of the configurator crunching our data, they were driving our Elantra through cyberspace, and into their (virtual) driveway. Check out this video to get an idea of how it works. Read more about Hyundai’s virtual configurator here.

Why Do Cars Look Alike?
Critics have said it for years: So many new cars look alike these days. It’s true that if you look at the cars from the side there are many similarities, from sheetmetal shapes and roof curvature to the rearview mirrors in some cases. But, asks The Wall Street Journal, do their designs reflect copying or simply what works in terms of accommodations and aerodynamics? It’s probably the latter. After all, designers have long struggled with fitting passengers comfortably into a car while maintaining the desired exterior shape. The riddle has become increasingly difficult to solve with the growing importance of aerodynamics in boosting a vehicle’s fuel economy. There isn’t much latitude if you are sculpting a car for minimum drag. For example, design elements of the 2013 Honda Accord sedan are strikingly similar to those of the BMW 3 Series sedan. Honda said it doubts anyone would mistake the new Accord for a BMW. “When I look at the pictures, what I notice are the differences,” said company spokesman Chris Martin. The Accord’s appearance, he said, mainly reflects the car maker’s focus on improving visibility for the driver and passengers, “and on building a good-looking car.” Read more about similar vehicle designs here.

Romney: Obama Misleading Voters on Auto Bailout
Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney said President Barack Obama is trying to mislead voters about his position on the $85 billion bailout and other issues. "I think that the president's campaign has focused its advertising in many cases on very inaccurate portrayals of my positions," he said. "They've been very aggressive in their attacks, both on a personal basis and on a policy basis. I think as time goes on, people will realize that those attacks are not accurate." According to The Detroit News, Romney criticized the series of attacks by the Obama campaign on his position on the auto bailout. "When he says I was in favor of liquidating the automobile industry, nothing could be further from the truth," Romney said. "My plan was to rebuild the auto industry and take it through bankruptcy so that could happen, and by the way, he doesn't mention he took them through bankruptcy." Romney – the son of George Romney, who was chief executive of Detroit-based American Motors Corp. – also the New Yorker magazine that GM collapsed because it failed to take account of international automakers. For more on how 2009’s auto bailout is playing a role in this fall’s campaign season, click here.

Family feud: Detroit Tries to Win Mid-Size Sedan Battle
The recovery of Detroit's automakers is about to face its stiffest challenge yet on an unlikely battlefield: The sizzling market for midsize family sedans, as General Motors and Ford square off against international rivals. NBCNews.com reports that the two automakers face an uphill fight against the three market leaders – the Toyota Camry, Honda Accord, and Nissan Altima – all of which are new or recently redesigned. Add in the latest offerings of the Hyundai Sonata, Volkswagen Passat, and Chrysler's existing 200 and Dodge Avenger cars, and the market is as crowded as it has ever been. The U.S. automakers have consistently fallen short in this sector for nearly two decades, trailing Toyota and Honda since the mid-1990s. Sales of midsize family cars are up 23 percent through August this year versus 15 percent for the whole industry – partly a reflection of newer, edgier designs with better fuel economy, more premium features, and fresh technology. "Everyone has upped their game" in midsize family sedans, observes Jim Farley, a former Toyota sales executive who is now Ford's global marketing chief. Read more on the battle for midsize car buyers here.

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Around the Web  
Take a Tour of Ferrari's Stunning Aluminum-Skinned Museum [Jalopnik]
Jaguar Works Out F-Type at Nardo and the 'Ring [Autoblog]
The Lexus LFA's Chief Engineer Blogs About the Supercar [MotorAuthority]
FedEx to Test Nissan Electric Van [Exhaust Notes]

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