Toyota faces the possibility of criminal charges for handling of safety issues.
Thanks to the tough legislation -- known as the Transportation Recall Enhancement, Accountability and Documentation (TREAD) Act -- put in place after the much-publicized Firestone Tire / Ford Explorer rollover recalls 10 years ago, those who intentionally mislead federal regulators about safety defects now find themselves subject to criminal fines, and even prison time.
Given that the seemingly endless congressional hearings have yet to produce a satisfactory answer as to who at the company knew what about the myriad safety defects (chief among them unintended acceleration), and when, it's not out of the realm of possibility that someone in the Toyota corporate structure will be brought up on charges -- especially given that legislators seem to be champing at the bit to make an example of, well, anyone, really.
By Hans Greimel, Automotive News
Electric car hopeful Aurica Motors LLC is floating a plan to keep open a California joint venture between Toyota and General Motors by building zero emission vehicles there.
Aurica has been negotiating the plan with New United Motor Manufacturing Inc. for the past three months, Aurica General Manager Matt Pitagora said in a phone interview late Wednesday.
“We want to keep the plant open, and we believe we have a very viable plan to do so by manufacturing electric cars,” Pitagora said. “It's all about keeping the lights on.”
Aurica is a little-known start-up based in Santa Clara, Calif., with eight employees and unpublicized finances. But it proposes making electric vehicles within two years at NUMMI, the Fremont, Calif., joint venture set up by Toyota Motors Corp. and GM in 1984. The factory is currently scheduled to shut its doors March 31. GM pulled out of the venture last year as part of its reorganization under Chapter 11 bankruptcy, and Toyota said it would follow suit because the plant isn't financially viable without GM as a partner.
Subaru's quiet success.
Not that Subaru necessarily wants to win that race for global supremacy. After all, it currently enjoys a mere 2 percent U.S. market share, and those other monstrous manufacturers, with their vastly superior resources, won't be caught napping by the road any time soon (ruining my tortoise-and-hare analogy, but oh well).
Still, last year Subaru had the very best performance of any automaker, and the difference in fortunes was staggering: The Japanese manufacturer's sales rose an impressive 15.4 percent, while the auto industry overall dropped by 21 percent -- which, despite the company's small sales footprint, is still like jumping 2 feet above the quicksand while everyone else sinks 3 feet below it.
By Greg Kable
A series of European and U.S. patent applications obtained by AutoWeek show that Porsche remains committed to building a four-door convertible version of its flagship Panamera, despite recent comments from Zuffenhausen insiders indicating the car had been canceled.
The new car, depicted in official drawings that accompany the latest Porsche patent applications filed in February, eschews the two-door route taken by all of its upmarket rivals for a practical four-door body. The layout, without a traditional B-pillar, has required substantial stiffening to the Panamera's floorpan and bulkheads to ensure sufficient structural rigidity and integrity.
The move to bring a four-door convertible to showrooms is a bold one that carries far higher development costs than a more conventional two-door open-top car. But with carmakers seeking to establish unique selling points for all of their models, it's one that could provide Porsche with a valuable sales advantage as it seeks to expand the Panamera line.
New research says more cars sold than originally reported.
According to a report by Maritz Research, Cash for Clunkers vastly exceeded all car sales projections and did better than even the Transportation Department has suggested. The report says that, directly or indirectly, 765,000 new vehicles rolled off of dealer lots thanks to the government incentives. That figure is more than twice the number of cars the department has attributed to the program. So where is Maritz getting its numbers?
By Greg Migliore
The 2011 Sierra heavy-duty range was revealed in St. Louis at the National Truck Equipment Association Work Truck Show. The truck goes on sale early this summer.
Network hits sleazy new low in Toyota coverage.
The Toyota situation is officially out of control -- and I’m not referring to its supposedly runaway cars. As the media strive not to let the facts spoil a good story, ABC News has taken a shameful page from a famous moment in recall history by hoaxing viewers in the quest for ratings.
In this case, ABC News did so by rigging a Toyota Avalon (pictured) to mimic runaway acceleration in a way that could never happen in the real world. Worse, ABC’s cynical ratings ploy was abetted by a front man for auto-liability lawyers who stands to benefit by trashing Toyota’s reputation. Yet that conflicting relationship was never revealed to ABC viewers.
David Gilbert, a professor at Southern Illinois University, who also prepared a report for Congress, jerry-rigged Toyota’s electronic control unit in a way that he claimed demonstrated a “dangerous” condition affecting Toyotas. Only one problem: To do it, Gilbert had to manipulate the system in a way that resembles sabotage -- cutting wires apart and reconnecting them in the wrong sequence, intentionally short-circuiting the system to provoke a wide-open throttle -- and proves absolutely nothing about what might be affecting Toyotas in the real world. Nor did ABC bother to mention that this professor, presented as an independent expert, is in the employ of trial-lawyer advocate Sean Kane, who also appeared on the segment to back Gilbert’s research. Yet the cozy relationships among Gilbert, Kane and the lawyers suing Toyota for billions of dollars was never mentioned.
A classic Chevy Suburban gets a semi-starring role in the Oscar-winning 'Crazy Heart' -- for free!
And it's easy to see how the picturesque landscapes of New Mexico and Texas through which the truck is driven, often accompanied by the movie's stunning bluegrass soundtrack, could add a romanticized, wanderlust-infused patina to an American icon like the Suburban. (It also doesn't hurt that Bad Blake and other characters, played by major stars like Colin Farrell and Maggie Gyllenhaal, even have an affectionate nickname -- Bessie -- for the never-say-die truck.)
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Clifford Atiyeh has spent his entire life driving cars he doesn't own. Raised in Volvos, he has grown to love fast, irresponsible vehicles of all kinds. He is the senior news editor at MSN Autos and also reports for Car and Driver, Road & Track, The Boston Globe and other publications.
In the garage: 21-speed Iron Horse, 2002 Jeep Wrangler X (not his)
Doug Newcomb has covered car technology for over 20 years for outlets ranging from Rolling Stone to Edmunds.com. In 2008, he published his first book, "Car Audio for Dummies" (Wiley). He lives and drives in Hood River, Ore., with his wife and two kids, who share his passion for cars and technology.
In the garage: 1996 Chevrolet Impala SS, two 1984 Chevrolet Blazers, 2008 Honda CR-V
James Tate learned to drive stick at age 13 in a 1988 Land Cruiser - in La Paz, Bolivia. He's since been a mechanic, on a pit crew and has wrenched on every car he's owned since his first 1989 Honda CRX Si (and won't stop until the car is a 1973 Porsche 911 RS). His work has appeared in Car and Driver, Popular Mechanics, Automobile and others.
In the garage: 1995 Porsche 911 Carrera, 1988 BMW M5