TOYOTA CARS, RACING AND ROBOTS: NEW ADVANCES, LEXUS AND FORMULA ONE

TOYOTA CARS

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2010 Yaris
The Toyota Land Cruiser is one of the world’s most popular SUVs. It was first introduced more than 50 years ago and was originally developed for the Japanese police. Valued for its durability, it possesses a ladder style frame undercarriage that has been the foundation of every model and is now reinforced with high-strength steel.

As of the mid 2000s, the Toyota Corolla has been Japan's best-selling car for 35 or the last 36 years (it was No.2 in 2002). Since its introduction this tiny sedan has sold more than 20 million units in Japan and 20 million units overseas. The car was never a status symbol but had a reputation for reliability. It is now manufactured in a dozen countries

In recent years the Honda Fit and the Toyota Corolla have been vying for the position as the best selling car in Japan. Corolla regained its position as Japan’s No. 1 car in 2004. It was fifth best selling vehicle and the second best selling car behind the Fit in 2008.

In 2002, Toyota produced 64 different cars in Japan as part its program to produce different cars for five main networks of dealers---Toyota, Toyopet, Corolla, Netz and Vista. By contrast Nissan only produced 33 cars. Toyota introduced 10 new vehicles in Japan in 2007. The Corolla, Vitz and Noah and Voxy minivans all sold well.

Toyota had seven of the top ten bestselling cars in Japan in 2005 and 2006 and six of the top ten bestsellers in 2004. Top selling cars in Japan in 2002 (units): 2) Toyota Corolla (226,222); 4) Toyota ist (103,332); 5) Toyota Vitz (100,801); 6) Toyota Noah ist (97,080); 7) Toyota Estima (95,765); 8) Toyota Voxy (77,958);

Wish minivans have done well in Japan they were third bestselling car in 2003 and second in 2004. In 2005 Toyota promoted the GX and RX sports utility vehicles in and introduced Lexuses to Japan.

The Prius was the top-selling car in Japan in fiscal 2009. Sales quadrupled to 277,485 from the previous year. The Prius outsold the Suzuki WagonR minicar which had been the top seller the previous five years.

About 80 percent of all the Toyotas sold in the United States in the last 20 years are still on the road today.

Websites and Resources

Good Websites and Sources: Toyota toyota.com ; History of Toyota toyota.co.jp/en/history ; Toyota Automobile Museum toyota.co.jp/Museum ; New York Times articles on Toyota nytimes.com ; Car Connections on New Toyotas thecarconnection.com/make/new,toyota ; Toyota factory tour Japan Guide and Toyota site ; Toyota Motorsports toyotaracing.com/ ; Toyota Robots toyota.co.jp/en/special/robot ; Toyota Concept Cars toyota.com/concept-vehicles ; Book: The Elegant Solution: Toyota’s Formula for Mastering Innovation by Matthew E. May (Free Press, 2006)

Hybrids and Electric Cars Wikipedia article on Hybrids Wikipedia ; Toyota Hybrids toyota.com/hybrid ; Wikipedia article on Electric Cars Wikipedia ; All Electric Cars Blog allcarselectric.com ; Toyota Electric Cars allcarselectric.com/blog ;

Links in this Website: INDUSTRIES IN JAPAN Factsanddetails.com/Japan ; JAPANESE COMPANIES Factsanddetails.com/Japan ; TRADE AND OVERSEAS BUSINESS IN JAPAN Factsanddetails.com/Japan ; MACROECONOMICS IN JAPAN Factsanddetails.com/Japan ; JAPAN INC. AND REFORMS Factsanddetails.com/Japan ; JAPANESE AUTOMOBILE INDUSTRY Factsanddetails.com/Japan ; AUTOMOBILES AND DRIVING IN JAPAN Factsanddetails.com/Japan ; HYBRIDS, FUEL CELLS AND ELECTRIC CARS IN JAPAN Factsanddetails.com/Japan ; JAPANESE AUTOMOBILE COMPANIES Factsanddetails.com/Japan ; TOYOTA Factsanddetails.com/Japan ; TOYOTA PRODUCTION AND WORKERS Factsanddetails.com/Japan ; TOYOTA PROBLEMS Factsanddetails.com/Japan ; TOYOTA CARS, RACING AND ROBOTS Factsanddetails.com/Japan ; HONDA Factsanddetails.com/Japan ; HONDA CARS, PLANES, ROBOTS AND RACING Factsanddetails.com/Japan ; NISSAN Factsanddetails.com/Japan ;

Good Websites and Sources on Industry: Good Photos at Japan-Photo Archive japan-photo.de ; Companies Listed by Industry mizuho-sc.com ; Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry meti.go.jp/english ; Statistical Handbook of Japan Manufacturing Chapter stat.go.jp/english/data/handbook ; 2010 Edition stat.go.jp/english/data/nenkan ; News stat.go.jp

Toyota Cars in the United States

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1970s-era Corolla
In the United States, Toyota sells Toyota, Lexus and Scion cars. In 2003, sales in the United States exceeded 2 million vehicles for the first time.

In J.D. Powers quality ranking in 2005 ten of the 18 vehicles that won the highest scores were Toyotas. In 2006 Toyota it had 11 of the 19 top-ranked vehicles. J.D. Powers quality ranking in 2006: 1) Porsche; 2) Lexus (Toyota); 3) Hyundai; 4) Toyota; 5) Jaguar; 6) Honda.

Six of the top rated cars in 10 categories rated by Consumers Reports in 2010 were Toyotas.Of the 39 vehicles rated most satisfying in a 2007 Consumers Report survey, 18 were Japanese brands and 10 were Toyotas, with the Prius ranking as the most satisfying vehicle for the forth straight year. Consumer Report best buys in the 1990s included the 1991 Toyota Camry and 1992 Toyota Corolla. The Toyota Camry and the Honda Accord are the two most popular cars among American car thieves.

In 2008, four of the top ten most fuel efficient vehicles in the United States were Toyotas: 1) Toyota Prius (46. 65 miles per gallon); 4) Toyota Camry hybrid (33.45 miles per gallon); 6) Toyota Yaris (32.15 miles per gallon); and 7) Toyota Corolla (32 miles per gallon)

Toyota introduced the Scion brand in the United States to appeal to young drivers there, with the idea of building brand loyalty so they would buy more expensive Toyotas and Lexuses when they get older.

The Camry was she top selling car in the United States from 2002 to 2005. The Prius and Sienna minivan have also been very successful in the United States. The waiting lost for Prius was six to eight months 2004, far outselling the Honda Civic Hybrid.

The redesigned Camry was voted Motor Trend Car of the Year and the best selling car in the United States in 2006. The editor of Motor Trend wrote, “The Camry is the one car rival automakers wish they could build. It offers something for nearly everyone---performance, efficiency and roominess---at a price most Americans can afford.”

Both Toyota and Honda produce large gas-guzzling pick-up trucks in the United States. Toyota makes the Tundra and Crew Max pick-up trucks. The Tundra was names Truck of Year by Motor Trend in 2007. It gets only 14mpg in the city but can earn Toyota as much as $10,000 per vehicle in profit.

There has been great resistance within Toyota to the trend of making bigger cars and trucks in United States with worries that they could damage Toyota’s reputation for building fuel efficient cars. Toyota decided to build the bigger vehicles because they yield considerably larger profits than small cars.

In April 2000, Toyota began selling the MR2 Spyder sports car. It sold for $23,098, had 138 horsepower and went from 0 to 60 mph in 6.95 seconds.

Toyota and Subaru Lead 2102 'Consumer Reports' Survey

The Detroit News reported: “Japanese automakers dominated Consumer Reports' 2012 survey of the best cars, with Toyota taking five of the "Top Picks" and Subaru Motor Co. taking the top score as best-overall automaker. Subaru ousted Honda Motor Co. as the top overall, and Honda fell to fourth place. Japanese automakers held the top five spots, with Nissan Motor Co. in fifth. "While Japanese automakers still hold the top five spots, their lead is shrinking. In some of Honda's and Toyota's recently designed models, cost-cutting has become more noticeable," said David Champion, senior director of Consumer Reports' automotive test center. [Source: Detroit News, February 29, 2012]

“Jerry Hirsch wrote in the Los Angeles Times: “Toyota models represented half of the magazine’s top picks by vehicle category, the first automaker to score that many models among the best-rated vehicles in nearly a decade. The redesigned Toyota Camry hybrid and Highlander sport-utility vehicle edged out rival models as Consumer Reports’ choices for top family sedan and family SUV, respectively.In the magazine’s tests, the Camry hybrid delivered 38 miles per gallon overall fuel economy---the best in class and as good as what it described as smaller and less versatile hybrids. But fuel economy experienced in Consumer Reports’ test was still less than the 43 mpg that Toyota claimed for the hybrid in its advertising. [Source: Jerry Hirsch, Los Angeles Times, February 28, 2012]

“The Japanese brands scored the highest in Consumer Reports ratings of automakers. “While Japanese automakers still hold the top five spots, their lead is shrinking. In some of Honda’s and Toyota’s recently redesigned models, cost-cutting has become more noticeable,” said David Champion, senior director of Consumer Reports Automotive Test Center. [Ibid]

“Top picks by vehicle category were: Best sporty car: Ford Mustang. Small SUV: Toyota RAV4. Family sedan: Toyota Camry hybrid. SUV: Toyota Highlander. Affordable family sedan: Hyundai Sonata. Minivan: Toyota Sienna. Sports sedan: Infiniti G. Green car: Toyota Prius. Small car: Subaru Impreza. Pickup truck: Chevrolet Avalanche. [Ibid]

New Toyota Camry

In August 2011, Toyota unveiled the 2012 Camry, its first redesign of the sedan in five years. AP reported: “While Toyota hopes to create buzz by lowering the Camry's price, improving its fuel economy and adding new features, it may not be enough to keep the Camry No. 1 in the increasingly competitive market for midsize sedans.” "The Camry is not a slam-dunk by itself anymore," says Jesse Toprak, vice president of industry trends and insights for car pricing site TrueCar.com. [Source: AP, August 23, 2011]

“Toyota showed off the new Camry on the Web and at events in California and elsewhere. It has given the car a sharper, more pointed hood, a quieter and roomier interior and more trunk space. It's also offering Entune, a system that lets drivers access internet services like Pandora from their mobile phones using voice commands or an in-dash touch screen. But critics say the styling is bland compared with edgier rivals like Nissan, Hyundai and Kia, and that Toyota saved money by using cheaper interior materials.” "There's nothing fundamentally wrong with it, but is that good enough nowadays? No, it's not," Toprak says.

The new Camry is due to arrive at dealerships in early October. A basic version will cost just under $22,000 and get 35 mpg on the highway.

Toyota has sold more than 15 million Camrys worldwide since it introduced the car in 1983 to compete with the Honda Accord. It quickly became a big seller in the U.S. because of its reputation for reliability and good gas mileage. The Camry outsold the Ford Taurus in 1997 and has been the best-selling car in America every year except for 2001, when it was eclipsed by the Accord. Even Toyota's embarrassing series of safety recalls last year and earthquake-related shortages this spring didn't knock it down from No.1.

A basic Camry will now start at $21,955, which is $710 more than the current model. But most other versions will cost less than current ones. The top-of-the-line version, for example, will start at $24,725, or $2,000 less. The hybrid Camry, which starts at $25,900, is $1,150 less. At that starting price, the Camry will cost a little more than some of its competitors, such as the $19,200 Kia Optima. But Carter says the car includes a lot for the price, including the most air bags---10---in its class.

Toyota has also tweaked the Camry's engines to get better fuel economy. The four-cylinder engine, which makes up the bulk of Camry's sales, will get 35 miles per gallon on the highway, up from 32 in the 2011 Camry. The hybrid version will get a combined 41 miles per gallon in city and highway driving. Those numbers make the Camry one of the most fuel efficient sedans among its competitors.

But it remains to be seen whether Toyota can draw back buyers who started shopping other brands after Toyota was hit by huge recalls that involved sticky accelerators and floor mats that trapped gas pedals. Customers also ran into shortages this summer after Japan's earthquake disrupted production.

Toyota's lead has been slipping the last four years. In the first seven months of 2007, the company sold more than 282,000 Camrys, trouncing what was then its closest competitor, the Honda Accord, by more than 62,000. Camry sales were more than double the Nissan Altima's, and more than three times those of the Ford Fusion, Chevrolet Malibu and Hyundai Sonata. Now the Camry's top five rivals are within striking distance. The Altima was only 21,000 behind through July, and the Fusion just 23,000 back.

Toprak and others say the Hyundai Sonata is most worrying to Toyota. Its fuel economy equals the 2012 Camry but it has more horsepower, and its styling is more daring. Its starting price is also $2,300 lower than the Camry's. Camry sales were down 8 percent through July, while the Sonata's were up 21 percent.

Aaron Bragman, an analyst with IHS Automotive, thinks the new Camry will probably win over many of the 6.8 million people already driving the car in the U.S. But he's unimpressed by the vehicle's cheaper looking hard plastic surfaces and knobs, and he thinks some shoppers will be, too. "I don't think it's going to bring anybody new to the brand," he says.

Toyota Motor Corp. President Akio Toyoda visited the Georgetown, Ky., plant where the Camry is made, underscoring the car's importance. Toyoda said he personally tested the new car until he was satisfied that it outperforms its competition. "This car has become a symbol of Toyota's success," he said. "This is an opportunity to show the world again what Toyota is all about."

GT86 Will “Revive” Toyota’s Sports Car Tradition

Tony Lewis wrote in Just-Auto.com: “The new GT86, developed with Subaru, will mark the revival of Toyota's sports car development tradition said president Akio Toyoda. The model was launched in April 2012. Toyoda said the company regretted dropping sports cars from its line-up and added: “As long as automobile fans exist, the world of sporty automobiles will absolutely not disappear.'' [Source: Tony Lewis, Just-Auto.com February 3, 2012]

“The Toyota chief said that ''automakers have distanced themselves from young people,” by dropping such cars as the MR2, Celica and Supra. The company said it will offer a range of auto components for the modification of the GT86 and expects to sell 1,000 a month. The model will be introduced to overseas markets in stages with the aim of eventually selling 30,000 to 40,000 of the cars a year worldwide. [Ibid]

“The Yomiuri Shimbun reported: “Toyota unveiled its compact sports car, the 86 (pronounced "hachiroku"), jointly developed with Fuji Heavy Industries Ltd., at Fuji Speedway in Oyamacho, Shizuoka Prefecture,. The automaker displayed the four-seat, 2,000cc car at the Tokyo Motor Show 2011. The new car inherited the AE86 model name, which was used for Toyota's Corolla Levin and its sister car Sprinter Trueno. Both models were manufactured in the 1980s and remain popular today. [Source: Yomiuri Shimbun, November 29, 2011]

“The price tag for the GT86 in Japan is between 2 million yen and 3 million yen. The automaker hopes the new sports car will attract young consumers, who are said to be increasingly uninterested in driving. Its new engine, created by combining the expertise of both automakers--Fuji Heavy's horizontally opposed engine and Toyota's direct injection technology--make for a well-handling car. The sports car's fuel efficiency is comparable to a sedan of the same displacement, according to the automaker. [Ibid]

“An increasing number of carmakers have withdrawn from the sports car business because of the small market and difficulty in complying with environmental regulations. Toyota had also distanced itself from the sports car business after the Celica finished its run in 2006. However, it has reversed direction, saying sports cars are the company's flagship products. [Ibid]

Toyota’s Aqua: Japan's Most Fuel-Efficient Car in 2012

Toyota claimed has a new hybrid vehicle the Aqua is Japan's most fuel-efficient car. The car get mileage of 35.4 kilometers per liter or about 90 miles per gallon. The car went on sale in Japan in December 2011. As of the summer of 2012 there was a five month waiting perod to get the car. Toyota plans to export the Aqua to the U.S. and other countries in the spring of 2013. It will cost a little over $21,000. [Ibid]

“The Aqua costs around 1.6 million yen in Japan. The Yomiuri Shimbun reported: “Aqua's size and shape are based on Toyota's Vitz, a gasoline-powered subcompact sold in more than 70 countries. Toyota said it has succeeded in reducing the size and weight of the hybrid system, which controls the combination of a 1.5-liter engine and a high-powered motor. It will be marketed overseas as the Prius c. [Source: Yomiuri Shimbun. November 16, 2011]

Toyota Minicar

In September 2011, Toyota launched its first minicar (“Kei”) for the home market in Japan -- the Pixis Space. Toyota's Pixis Space is basically a rebadged "Move Conte" from Toyota-owned Dahaitsu Motor, which specializes in small vehicles. Starting price 1.12 million yen ($14,700).[Source: Fred Meier, USA Today September 27, 2011]

The Pixis may be tiny-- the wheelbase is just 8.2 feet. But it offers a full range of options: six trim levels and a 660cc engine and CVT powertrain with start-stop that can be had with a turbo and with front- or all-wheel drive.

Toyota plans two more minicars for the Japanese market, believed to be a tiny van and a micro-truck, although it has not said when those will launch. Its goal is total annual sales of 60,000 in Japan for the three.The entrance of Toyota, the elephant of the Japanese market, into the segment is expected to heat up the competition in Japan. It might also give Toyota additional products for some emerging markets.

Toyota iQ and I-Swing

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IQ
In October 2008, Toyota unveiled an ultra compact, the iQ, that is less than three meters in length but has four seats. The car has a 1 liter engine capable of getting 23 kilometers per liter (80 mile per gallon) and cost ¥1.3 million

The iQ was designed to compete with models like the Dailmer AG Smart Car. In 2008, it was named Japan Car of the Year award after a board of motor journalists who the car “revolutionary.” Praised for its safety and environmental performance, it comes with nine air bags including one in the back that protect the heads of rear seat passengers in the event of a rear end collision.

Sony and Toyota have formed an alliance to produce LCD panels for cars and are working together to develop a single-seat “transporter” vehicle called the “I-swing.”

Lexus

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Lexus hybrid
Lexus is Toyota's luxury car. Launched in the United States and Europe 1989 to compete with European luxury car makers like Mercedes and BMW, it grew at a phenomenal rate---increasing it sales in the U.S. by 60.2 percent in 1998 alone---and steadily took market share its rival. It took Lexus just 12 year to claim the No. 1 spot in the U.S. luxury car market.

Lexus has been top ranked car in dependability by in J.D Power for 14 consecutive years in 2008.

Lexus debuted in Japan in 2005. Their cars went on sale at 143 plush new dealerships with marble floors and Italian sofas. One of the main hurdles Lexus has to overcome in Japan is convincing Japanese consumers that it isn’t just a Toyota.

In Spring of 2001, Lexus introduced the SC-430 sports car. It sold for $59,000, had 300 horsepower and went from 0 to 60 mph in 5.9 seconds. Lexus makes the 470 SUV and produces a hybrid that debuted in 2006. The Lexus LS460 sedan is aimed directly at buyers of Mercedes flagship S-class cars. It was was declared 2007 Car of the Year at the New York International Auto Show.

In September 2011, Toyota unveiled the all-new next generation Lexus. According to a Toyota press release the car “is characterized by its radiant modern design, based on the L-finesse design philosophy, emanating the Lexus brand’s refined essence and powerful presence.... The vehicle is powered by a 3.5 liter, 6-cylinder in-line engine that produces a peak 306 horsepower at 6,000 rpm, in addition to its ability to generate 375 Nm of torque at 4,100 rpm. Also, it is equipped with a 6 gear, and a first-of its kind 12.3 inch navigation display to direct the driver with the required information during occupancy.

In June 2012, USA Today reported: “Toyota's Lexus brand was No. 1, Jaguar was most-improved and General Motors was the top domestic automaker in the closely watched 2012 J.D. Power Initial Quality Study released today. It was the second-consecutive year Lexus led the study as the brand with vehicles that had the fewest problems in the first 90 days of ownership. Owners reported 73 problems per 100 Lexus vehicles, well below the industry average of 102. Toyota -- including Lexus and Scion brands -- also had the most top finishers in the ranking of individual car and truck models by product category. It had five. [Source: Fred Meier and Chris Woodyard, USA TODAY, June 20, 2012]

“In February 2012, AP reported: “Lexus is the top performer in a new survey of vehicle dependability. J.D. Power and Associates says most other brands in the survey also showed improvement, and that the auto industry has reached historically high levels of dependability. The consulting firm polled 31,000 owners of 2009 model-year vehicles and rated brands by the number of problems owners have experienced in the last 12 months. Problems can range from stalling engines and transmission issues to peeling paint and glitch electronics. The top complaint in this year's survey was excessive wind noise. Lexus, Porsche, Cadillac, Toyota and Scion had the fewest reported problems. The worst performers were Chrysler, Dodge, Jeep, Ram and Jaguar. The industry average was 132 problems per 100 vehicles, the best rate since the survey began in 1990. [Source: Dee-ann Durbin, AP, February 15, 2012]

New Advances by Toyota

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single-seat "amazing invention"
Honda has a reputation for having the best engineers while Toyota is known for having more skilled marketers. A Honda executive told Newsweek, “Toyota may have engineers that aren’t as smart as Honda’s, but they’re certainly better at listening to consumers.”

At Expo 2005 in Nagoya, Toyota displayed a futuristic four-wheel, leaf-shaped single person electric vehicle that ran on a lithium-ion battery and featured an exterior made from biodegradable, plant-based materials. Time magazine called it one of “most amazing inventions” of 2005.

Toyota has developed an ultra-clean diesel engine that passes tough emission standards in the United States and Europe. The innovation is aimed mainly at Europe, where diesel engines are common in family vehicles. Toyota’s advances have given it a jump on BMW, Honda and other competitors.

Toyota and Microsoft are working together to bring Internet-related services to Toyota cars around the world. One of the goals is maximizing the efficiency of charging electric cars to do it when charging rates are lowest.

Toyota spends about $10 billion in research and development.

Toyota Safety Technology

In August 2006, Toyota announced that it had developed a system that can prevent rear-end collisions before they happen. The devise uses a radar to detect approaching vehicles and flashes lights to warn approaching cars to slow down and quickly changes the position of the headrests to protect the driver and passenger from whiplash. In October 2008, Toyota announced that it had made the world’s air bags for rear collisions.

According to The Detroit News, Toyota is working on a new pre-crash system that will actually take control and steer the vehicle to minimize impact in the event of an unavoidable collision. The system combines super-sensitive radar with a camera array in the front fascia to detect possible impacts. On-board computers then calculate the correct levels of braking and steering required to avoid the crash, and if the driver fails to act, the automatic system takes over. The pre-crash steering is specifically designed to reduce the chance of a vehicle-pedestrian impact, and Toyota is also working on systems to accommodate drivers who have heart attacks while behind the wheel. [Source: Zach Bowman, Autoblog, July 23, 2011]

In May 2011 Toyota announced it will fit its onboard navigation systems with a new function to give on-screen and voice alerts to drivers traveling against the flow of traffic as dealer-installed options from June 1. The voice alert will tell drivers, “You may be traveling against the flow of traffic. Please check your direction of travel”, while the on-screen instruction will tell them, Warning! Wrong Way! The function was made possible by advances in communications-based map-updating technology and in pinpoint position-recognition technology that uses information from global positioning system and gyro and other sensors to determine accurate vehicle movement. [Source: AP]

Toyota, Nissan and other car companies are experimenting with Breathalyzer devices that won’t let a driver start his car until he passes the test. They have developed sensors that detect blood-alcohol levels in the driver palms; a system that detects erratic movements through the steering wheel; and use a camera to check if the pupils are focused. If something wrong is detected the car slows down and come to a stop. The system is expected to be ready in 2009.

Toyota and Car Racing

Honda and Toyota operate rival tracks. Toyota’s Fuji International Speedway lies at the foot of Mt. Fuji. It is 4.5 kilometers long, was renovated in the mid 2000s and hosted Japan’s Formula One race in 2008.

Toyota entered NASCAR in 2004 and competed it first top level NASCAR Stock Car race in February 2007 with Michael Waltrip as one of its drivers. Only one non-American car had won a stock car race in the United States before then and that was in January 1954. In 2006, Toyota won 12 of 25 events in the NASCAR truck racing series.

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2009 F-1 car

Toyota debut NASCAR season in 2007 was less than impressive. Some called it a disaster. In 2008, Toyota did better with a team of 11 Camrys and drivers Denny Hamlin, Tony Stewart and Kyle Busch and alliance with Joe Gibbs Racing. Busch was head in the NASCAR Sprint Cup series before the Chase with seven victories, 12 top five finished and had a 262 point leader driver Dale Earnhardt Jr.

In January 2009, Toyota said it would cut its NASCAR budget to save money in the wake of the economic crisis in 2008 and 2009.

As of January 2009, Toyota had 51 victories in 125 races and was in its third year with Joe Gibbs Racing, whose drivers gave Toyota ten victories. Toyota has also won the last three manufacturing championship. Competitors have said that deep-pocketed Toyota has won by outspending its rivals.

Toyota pulled out from Le Mans in 1999. It plans to enter with a hybrid in 2010 with the aim of proving that fuel efficiency can be as important in winning a car race as speed. The car is expected to have a storage battery like that found n Prius as well as a condenser that can rapidly generate and store electricity. Toyota hopes to reduce fuel consumption by around six percent and adapt the technology for passenger cars.

Honda and Toyota are leaders in making engines for the 20-race CART FedEx Championship races. Toyota and Honda cars occupied the first 17 positions in the 2003 Indianapolis 500. That year Toyota debuted at Indy and Honda returned after eight years away. Their engine are more powerful than those of General Motors, the top U.S. manufacturer.

NASCAR. See Sports

Toyota and Formula One Car Racing

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2009 F-1 engine
Toyota entered Formula One in 2002. It has spent over $1 billion and not won anything. As of 2008 all it had to show for its trouble and expense was two second place finishes in Malaysia and Bahrain by Italian driver Jarno Trulli in 2005 and a second place in Hungary in 2008.

Toyota has mostly struggled. In 2002 it finished 10th in the team standings. In 2003 and 2004 it was eighth with no podium finishes. In 2005 and 2006 Toyota signed two big name drivers---German Ralf Shumacher and Italian Jarno Trulli---and operated under the Panasonic racing Team. In 2005, the team got off to a good start. Trulli took second in the second race of the season and the team went on to take five podium finishes and places forth in the constructors title with 12 points.

The Toyota Formula One team is based in Cologne, Germany. Ralf Schumacher raced for Toyota three years 2005, 2006 and 2007. His best finish was third in 2006 in Australia. In 2008, Toyota replaced Ralf Schumacher with German driver Timo Glock.

In the 2006, Toyota promised to secure its first win but failed. It finished six the in the team championship with 35 points. In the 2007, it finished sixth eith 35 points, beat out by Williams which uses Toyota engines and scored 20 points more. In 2004 it finished forth with 88 points.

In 2007, Toyota put a large chunk of its profits in its Formula One team and sponsored the Japan Grand Prix and supplied engines for rival team, Williams.

In 2008, Toyota said it would scale back cots but vowed that it would not drop out of Formula One despite suffering in the global financial crisis. Later it was revealed that the team nearly pulled out of F1 and only decided to stay after receiving a pledge of support from it main sponsor Panasonic.

Toyota drivers went with driver Jarno Trulli and Timo Glock in 2009. They qualified one and two in Bahrain in April 2009 but were unable to take home a win.

Toyota Robots

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Toyota's horn-playing robot
Toyota started its humanoid robot program in 2000, when the first Asimo appeared. Rather than building one very good robot was the case with Honda it built a range of robots with a variety of skills, including ones on wheels and ones with legs. Specialized robots have been programed to play the trumpet, tuba, drums and violin but each robot is programed to play only one instrument.

Toyota human robots, known as Partner Robots, can play When You Wish Upon a Star and the opening of Wagner’s Ring of the Nibelung with a trumpets. The trumpet-playing robots have lips made of a special plastic and lungs made of pumps. Masashi Yamashita, head of Toyota’s partner robot division, said the musical robots were introduced for their entertainment and publicity value but also said that working with professional musicians has given them insight into how to make robots to perform specific tasks.

In 2007, Toyota unveiled a woman-like robot on wheels that served as a guide in the company headquarters. It could avoid obstacles, sign its name, carry on simple conversations in Japanese and deliver pre-programmed information in an electronic voice.

Toyota has also developed robots that maintain their balance on two wheels using gyroscopic sensors adapted from the company’s vehicle stability control system and has been programed to be nice and help people.

Toyota says its aims to put humanoid “partner robots” into use after 2010 to help people in factories, hospitals, homes and around town. It made the statement in December 2007 when it unveiled a “mobility robot” and “violin playing robot” and announced the it will build a research facility dedicated to robot technology.

Toyota has developed a personal transport assistance robot call Winglet M. It has a top speed of 6kph and allows people to travel in a standing position.

Image Sources: Toyota except robot (Wiki Commons)

Text Sources: New York Times, Washington Post, Los Angeles Times, Daily Yomiuri, Times of London, Japan National Tourist Organization (JNTO), National Geographic, The New Yorker, Time, Newsweek, Reuters, AP, Lonely Planet Guides, Compton’s Encyclopedia and various books and other publications.

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© 2009 Jeffrey Hays

Last updated October 2012

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