Toyota retires robots in favor of humans to improve automaking process

Toyota retires robots in favor of humans to improve automaking process

April 13, 2014 by · Leave a Comment 

Filed under: Japan , Plants/Manufacturing , Toyota Mitsuru Kawai is overseeing a return to the old ways at Toyota factories throughout Japan. Having spent 50 years at the Japanese automaker, Kawai remembers when manual skills were prized at the company and “experienced masters used to be called gods, and they could make anything.” Company CEO Akio Toyoda personally chose Kawai to develop programs to teach workers metalcraft such as how to forge a crankshaft from scratch, and 100 workstations that formerly housed machines have been set aside for human training. The idea is that when employees personally understand the fabrication of components, they will understand how to make better machines. Said Kawai, “To be the master of the machine, you have to have the knowledge and the skills to teach the machine.” Lessons learned by the newly skilled workers have led to shorter production lines – in one case, 96percent shorter – improved parts production and less scrap. Taking time to give workers the knowledge to solve problems instead of merely having them “feed parts into a machine and call somebody for help when it breaks down,” Kawai’s initiative is akin to that of Toyota’s Operations Management Consulting Division, where new managers are given a length of time to finish a project but not given any help – they have to learn on their own. It’s not a step back from Toyota’s quest to build more than ten million cars a year; it’s an effort to make sure that this time they don’t sacrifice quality while making the effort. Said Kawai, “We need to become more solid and get back to basics.” Toyota retires robots in favor of humans to improve automaking process originally appeared on Autoblog on Sat, 12 Apr 2014 15:05:00 EST. Please see our terms for use of feeds . Permalink

Jay Leno gets behind the curtain on the design of the Toyota FT-1 concept

Jay Leno gets behind the curtain on the design of the Toyota FT-1 concept

April 8, 2014 by · Leave a Comment 

Filed under: Concept Cars , Coupe , Performance , Videos , Toyota , Celebrities Hinting at the future of Toyota performance vehicles, the FT-1 concept was one of the stars of the Detroit Auto Show this year. It even nabbed fourth place in our Editors’ Choice list . While he’s a few months behind the car’s official reveal, Jay Leno managed to get the only existing concept of the sports coupe wheeled into his garage to take a closer look, and he’s pretty impressed. Leno speaks with Alex Shen and William Chergosky, the exterior and interior chief designers of the FT-1 respectively, to get a better idea of the inspirations behind the concept. Jay heaps high praise on it for mixing Italian and Japanese design and says he likes the look even more than the Lexus LFA . The coupe isn’t a product of either country, though. It was penned at Toyota’s CALTY Design Research center in Newport Beach, CA. The designers go into the entire history of the FT-1, and Shen even admits that Toyota design lacks an emotional factor at the moment. It’s a fascinating interview behind some of the little touches you might miss at first glance. Unfortunately, the model doesn’t have the green light for production yet and may never get made.

Vote to unionize Toyota Canada plant faces delay

Vote to unionize Toyota Canada plant faces delay

April 5, 2014 by · Leave a Comment 

Filed under: Toyota , UAW/Unions , Canada Volkswagen isn’t the only automaker with high-profile unionization efforts afoot at one of its North American factories. Unifor, Canada’s largest private-sector union, is attempting to organize Toyota’s factories in Ontario, reports Reuters . A vote was originally set for next week, but Unifor has apparently found more workers eligible to vote, delaying the proceedings. It hasn’t rescheduled the ballot yet, but claims there are 7,500 employees with the right to vote, with over 3,000 having already signed union cards. Toyota is pushing against organizing, saying that workers already have a payment and benefits near the top of the industry, and noting that it has never laid off a permanent employee in Canada. Unifor has reportedly countered by saying that about a quarter of the workforce is operating under a temporary contract, which receives lower benefits. The automaker has three factories in Ontario – two in Cambridge and one in Woodstock. To form a union, a majority of eligible employees must vote to join Unifor. If successful, they would be the first wholly owned Toyota plants in North America to be organized. Previous attempts to unionize the Japanese automaker’s Canadian factories in 2001 and 2008 failed due to lack of support.

Toyota plans biggest stock buyback in over a decade

Toyota plans biggest stock buyback in over a decade

April 1, 2014 by · Leave a Comment 

Filed under: Toyota , Earnings/Financials At the end of December, 2013 Toyota had a cash stockpile of 1.8 trillion yen ($17.5B US). As of March 31, at the end of its current financial year, company coffers are expected to swallow another 1.9 trillion yen ($18.4B US) in net profit – said to be a record sum for the Japanese automaker. In a gesture signaling a turnaround from the horrors of the global recession, Bloomberg reports that Toyota will buy back 60 million shares of its stock, as much as 1.89 percent of the company, for something like 360 billion yen ($3.5B US). It’s the first buyback since 2009 and the largest buyback since 2003, when it spent roughly 390 billion yen ($3.8B US) repurchasing shares. Company president Akio Toyoda founded the Toyota Mobility Foundation (TMF), a non-profit that will support international groups working on transportation issues in emerging markets. Half of the stock that Toyota buys, 30 million shares, will be sold to the foundation via the Japanese Trustee Services Bank for one yen per share, the dividend providing the foundation’s initial funding. The other 30 million shares will be canceled, a company spokesman telling Reuters that the company wants to reward shareholders. Industry analysts have been asking Toyota to either return money to shareholders or invest in new factories, but Toyota has ruled out the latter. After getting burned with excess capacity when the financial crisis came, the company is focused on extracting efficiencies from the plants it already has. Toyota has said it plans to complete the buyback by June of this year.

Toyota reaches $1.2B unintended acceleration settlement in criminal probe

Toyota reaches $1.2B unintended acceleration settlement in criminal probe

March 20, 2014 by · Leave a Comment 

Filed under: Government/Legal , Recalls , Safety , Toyota , Earnings/Financials UPDATE: Just like that, Toyota has released an official statement confirming its $1.2-billion dollar settlement with the US Attorney’s Office. Our story has been updated to reflect this development and the automaker’s official statement has been added below . Toyota has reached a settlement over the criminal probe into its unintended acceleration problems, and the outcome is more expensive than first expected. The Japanese automaker has agreed to pay $1.2 billion to close the investigation among other settlement terms. The criminal inquiry focused on whether the company kept information from regulators and how it handled drivers’ complaints about the problems, according to the sources. Between 2009 and 2010, Toyota ended up recalling over 10 million vehicles worldwide over sudden acceleration fears. Fixes include modifying floor mats, gas pedals, and installing brake override software on affected models. In addition, Toyota made the latter standard on all of its new vehicles. The first rumblings of a settlement broke last month when “people familiar with the matter” revealed a possible billion-dollar agreement . That rumor suggested that the deal would also include criminal deferred prosecution arrangement that would force Toyota to accept responsibility but let it avoid federal criminal convictions.

Toyota renews Supra trademark, we renew frothing at the mouth

Toyota renews Supra trademark, we renew frothing at the mouth

February 19, 2014 by · Leave a Comment 

Filed under: Concept Cars , Coupe , Performance , Toyota , Design/Style Enthusiasts have been begging for a new Supra practically since Toyota stopped selling its fourth generation in the US way back in 1998. We’ve been hearing rumors about a successor for years, but the Toyota FT-1 Concept from the 2014 Detroit Auto Show is the first tangible sign from the automaker that a new generation may be on the table. To temp us even more, the Japanese company reportedly filed with the US Patent and Trademark Office last week to renew its 2010 trademark for the name “Supra.” Granted, these kinds of trademark updates aren’t uncommon, as automakers don’t want to lose their rights to nameplates (even if they have no immediate plans to use them). However, Toyota briefly abandoned its rights to the Supra name entirely. According to The Motor Report , the original trademark was continually renewed until 2006, but the Japanese automaker let it lapse in the US until applying for it again in 2010. The FT-1 Concept in Detroit was created at Toyota’s Calty Design Research center in California and carries cues from the 2000GT , Celica and Supra in an ultra-curvy body. Officials did not disclose anything about its powertrain. Toyota is also co-developing a future sports car platform with BMW that will underpin models from both companies, but few other details are konwn, and it isn’t yet clear that the joint venture has anything to do with a future Supra. Hope springs eternal. Toyota renews Supra trademark, we renew frothing at the mouth originally appeared on Autoblog on Tue, 18 Feb 2014 10:01:00 EST.

Toyota nears $40B cash reserve as calls grow for new investment, payouts

Toyota nears $40B cash reserve as calls grow for new investment, payouts

February 6, 2014 by · Leave a Comment 

Filed under: China , Japan , Plants/Manufacturing , Toyota , Earnings/Financials With the April 15 tax deadline just a few months away, our US readers will be faced with a decision should they get a refund: save or spend? It seems this issue is one many of us face whenever there’s a windfall, trying to decide whether we should set the money aside in an account of some sort or use it as a down payment on a new car or a trip to the Apple store. Unsurprisingly, major corporations face a similar, albeit more complex, issue. Take Toyota , for example. With President Akio Toyoda at the helm, the Japanese manufacturer has gracefully weathered recalls and natural disasters, all while turning beaucoup profits. Last quarter, profits quintupled to 434.4-billion yen ($4.3-billion USD), according to Bloomberg . Toyota also upped its forecast for the end of fiscal year 2013 (which ends on March 31 for Japan), to a record 1.9-trillion yen (about $18.8 billion). Now, the Japanese brand is reportedly sitting on a cash pile of nearly $40 billion, leaving Toyoda-san in an envious predicament – what should the company do with all that money? Some think Toyota should be doing something, anything with that big stack of cash. Some think Toyota (and Toyoda) should be doing something, anything with that big stack of cash.

Toyota Highlander Super Bowl Muppet ad is pure Mayhem

January 30, 2014 by · Leave a Comment 

Filed under: Budget , SUV , Marketing/Advertising , Toyota , Celebrities , Humor We previewed Toyota’s upcoming Super Bowl ad nearly a week ago, but with the big game just around the corner, the Japanese brand has now dropped the minute-long spot which will air on Sunday. As we said in that original post, the commercial stars Terry Crews from Brooklyn Nine-Nine, the Muppets (mostly Dr. Teeth and the Electric Mayhem band, as well as Gonzo and Rowlf) and the redesigned 2014 Toyota Highlander . We won’t spoil the premise, but suffice it to say that the Muppets’ goal of loosening Crews up is wildly successful. Make sure to watch through to the end for Animal’s take on Toyota’s motto, “Let’s go places.” We’ve got the full video down below , along with a press release from Toyota . Have a look and let us know what you think. Continue reading Toyota Highlander Super Bowl Muppet ad is pure Mayhem Toyota Highlander Super Bowl Muppet ad is pure Mayhem originally appeared on Autoblog on Wed, 29 Jan 2014 16:58:00 EST. Please see our terms for use of feeds . Permalink

Terry Crews and The Muppets out to ‘unborify’ Toyota’s Super Bowl commercial

Terry Crews and The Muppets out to ‘unborify’ Toyota’s Super Bowl commercial

January 23, 2014 by · Leave a Comment 

Filed under: Marketing/Advertising , Videos , Toyota , Celebrities With just over a week to go before the Big Game, automakers left and right are giving us sneak peeks at the big-budget ads they’ve got lined up for game day. Audi is keeping us on our collective toes with something about a dog show , and Volkswagen is trying to squeeze everything awesome into one spot, but Toyota looks poised to have them both beat. Because the Japanese automaker has got a far more lovable dog cast for its commercial, and the one bit of awesome the Germans seem to have forgotten. That’s right, Toyota’s commercial has got Muppets. With their new movie Muppets Most Wanted set to hit theaters in March, everybody’s favorite gang of shag carpets with googly eyes is on a mission to “unborify” Terry Crews, the actor of Brooklyn Nine-Nine and Everybody Hates Chris fame. Which only seems fitting for a Super Bowl commercial, seeing as how Crews played six seasons in the NFL as a defensive end and linebacker. We’re not sure that portraying the driver of a Highlander as someone who needs to be “unborified” is the right message Toyota wants to send in the first place, but we’ll reserve final judgement for when we see the full clip. In the meantime you can watch the half-minute teaser video below for a little Muppet mayhem. Continue reading Terry Crews and The Muppets out to ‘unborify’ Toyota’s Super Bowl commercial Terry Crews and The Muppets out to ‘unborify’ Toyota’s Super Bowl commercial originally appeared on Autoblog on Wed, 22 Jan 2014 14:58:00 EST. Please see our terms for use of feeds .

Volkswagen could outsell GM in China for the first time in nine years

Volkswagen could outsell GM in China for the first time in nine years

December 28, 2013 by · Leave a Comment 

Filed under: Car Buying , China , Ford , GM , Toyota , Volkswagen As of the end of November, Volkswagen had sold 70,000 more cars than General Motors in China in 2013, making it appear inevitable that VW will outsell GM there. The feat would return the German brand to the top of chart in China for the first time in nine years, but even the second-place getter won’t be complaining too loudly: both automakers sold more than three million vehicles in a market pegged to hit 16 million sales this year. Volkswagen said it could have sold more cars if it had had more production capacity in China. The arrival of a new-to-China Audi A4 , a China-built A3 sedan , the VW Bora and Skoda Octavia , as well as an $18.2-billion-euro investment in the country to construct new factories , means VW should see its numbers grow in 2014. GM’s lineup is expanding next year, too, adding four Chevrolet nameplates and two vehicles to its Baojun brand as it tries to get to five million in sales by 2015. Among other automakers, Ford benefited from good product and woes for Japanese automakers over a territorial dispute with China, outselling Toyota by almost 32,000 units through the end of November. The Ford Focus is China’s best-selling vehicle so far this year. Analysts predict that the Chinese market will grow in 2014 thanks to untapped demand in smaller cities, and that should make for more record numbers; counting buses and trucks, China should surpass the 20-million sales mark. The biggest headwind foreseen at the moment is pollution. Larger cities are already capping the number of new vehicle sales and how often people are allowed to drive, as the effects of industrialization obscure entire cities and long-term forecasts.

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