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Toyota Looks To Protect Green Turf Against GM

Posted by: David Kiley on January 13, 2008


In case anyone thought Toyota was taking General Motors’ frequent proclamations that it will be first to market with a plug-n hybrid vehicle lightly, the automaker’s CEO, Katsuaki Watanabe, laid down a series of announcements Sunday night at the North American International Auto Show, clean diesels and plug-ins, hybrids and clean diesels that should go a long way toward maintaining its advantage over General Motors, Ford and Chrysler in “green” image polishing.

Watanabe, whose company has been downplaying the significance of plug-ins (which are cars that can riun a distance on electric power alone and then either be recharged by a running gas engine that kicks in or by plugging the car into an household outlet) said Toyota will have an lithium-ion battery powered plug in test fleets by 2010, the same time-frame that GM has said it will deliver its first Chevy Volt plug-in cars to customers.

Further, the Toyota CEO said it will have a clean-diesel engine available in the Tundra pickup and Sequoia SUV by 2009, and two new hybrid-only models—one for its Toyota showrooms to sell alongside the Prius and one for Lexus showrooms. Lexus now sells hybrid versions of its RX SUV and LS sedan, but this will be the first hybrid-only model for the luxury brand.

Watanabe said Toyota will sell one million gas-electric hybrids by 2011 or 2012, and meet the U.S. Corporate Average Fuel Economy Standard of 35 mpg for its fleet in advance of the 2020 deadline.

General Motors has tried to seize a PR advantage since last year’s NAIAS in Detroit when it showed the Volt plug-in concept. The promise of the Volt is that it will get around 40 miles on an electric charge. Toyota, Honda and Ford have all said that the lithium-ion battery technology will not be ready by GM’s 2010 time-frame. Few believe GM can deliver the car with a capable battery that will be small enough and cheap enough to meet Lutz’s goal of a car that will cost below $30,000. Indeed, Lutz himself recently told BusinesWeek that delivering a car that will cost $30,000 or under without losing money on each one “may not happen.”

Besides adding two more hybrids, Toyota is out to best Detroit in one area thata it has traditionally led: pickup trucks. Ford and GM have also talked about putting clean diesel engines in their half-ton “light duty” pickups, which will increase fuel economy of the trucks by around 30%. If Toyota delivers in 2009, it will be ahead of all three Detroit carmakers.

Talking to both Lutz and GM CEO Rick Wagoner after Toyota’s announcement, though, indicates to me, though, that that Toyota in the next few months is going to announce diesel in light-duty Silverados in 2009 as well.

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Reader Comments


January 14, 2008 01:14 PM

There can be little doubt that Toyota is a company that accomplishes things with minimal fanfare while GM is busy spinning its wheels talking about hot future plans. The Volt is just the latest. And it may well be 'base-priced' at $30K or so just as was the Pontiac Poultice at $18,999 or whatever. Ever seen one of those? Seen any Poultices on the roads, or the Fallen Sky? Even here in car-nutso CA they are both as rare as common sense and honesty among politicians and lawyers.


January 14, 2008 02:12 PM

Plug in car

American Consumer

January 14, 2008 03:44 PM

This guy is like Hitler trying to kill off American Engineers. Its like he is in a war.

Maybe he should learn that Americans are Sick of toyota and there lies with gass millage of the prius.


January 14, 2008 07:26 PM

It looks to me Toyota is running scared. They ought to be, GM is not sleeping anymore. Also, GM has an awesome engineering department.


January 16, 2008 07:57 AM

I buy American car because I like them, and because they give the most value, and because I like the idea that the people who make them are well paid versus the Honda, Toyota BMW and Mercedes whose workers are barely paid half of what a the workers get at GM, Ford and Chrysler, not even speaking of benefits.
If I remember well, GM was the first company in the world trying a full scale distribution of an electric car.
How come that liberal oriented consumers always prefer foreign product as a statement of mixed contempt, rejection of shame of American culture? I am french, live in America and love it even more every day, but can somebody explain me this strange and suicidal attitude?


January 18, 2008 05:43 PM

Fmarc you wish you were french.


January 27, 2008 07:57 PM

If chev sticks to the program and builds a affordable plug in EV (Volt) it will be a winner. Will they get it right and buck the huge gas and oil boys is the question. Remember the EV1.


January 30, 2008 10:32 PM

i sell toyotas for a living and most of the trade ins I get are american cars. customers state that they are sick of the squeaks, rattles, poor performance, poor gas mileage and loss in value as well as all the times they had to get things fixed that should never have broken. american cars look great and are very affordable but whats the point if they dont run and they fall apart in 60 months. a toyota or honda owner knows that when hes finished paying his loan off, he will still have a car worth driving around for a while and when hes thru with it, he can sell it again or pass it on to family or freind knowing full well that it wont let them down. domestic manufacturers are getting murdered by their own employees not by the competition. its an inside job.

Joe A Merican

February 19, 2008 09:33 PM

I think everyone that is complaining about the US economy should look at what they are driving. Maybe the american cars of earlier where not as good as the current Toyotas, but I remember when you couldn't get a Toyota to last 60 months because the thing was made from sheet metal thin enough to be confused with Aluminum foil. I don't think any Toyota is any better than a comparable American car.

BTW did you know that made in America slogan by Toyota - HA! 70% of Toyota's workforce is the sales department, and the vehicles are only assembled in the US, not "Made in the US". So where do you think all the profit is going? Don't complain when the USA has a recession or becomes the third world country due to economics, just keep driving them foreign cars!


February 20, 2008 08:48 PM

Nice to see an unbiased Toyota salesman giving his viewpoint. Let me share mine. I owned a Toyota pickup in the 80's that went through two transmissions with 60,000 miles and it never went off road. Since selling the money pit I have driven a Ford F-150 with no problems in 130,000 miles and a Dodge Grand Caravan with 80,000 trouble free miles. As far as supporting Americna jobs please refer to for a comparison of the jobs provided by each automaker.


March 4, 2008 11:43 AM

Pick up a Consumers Report. Actually read it. It will tell you a few things: 1) US Automakers are starting to catch up to the Japanese manufactures in quality of vehicles produces. 2) The Japanese still own the road in both quality and long term durability. There are examples from both camps where domestics go the mile (NPR Reported a '95 Chevy Silverado that turned 1 million miles with no major problems: i.e., egine, tranny, etc) so to state with a wholesale blanket statement that one is ALWAYS better than the other is ignorant and shortsighted. But, the trend is still showing japs make better quality cars. Hopefully the Big 3 will get it on par sooner than later, because I hate sending my money overseas when it needs to stay here to help our own.

Another American Consumer

April 29, 2008 01:46 PM

To American Consumer: I have a 5.9 Durango and a 2006 Prius... guess which one I pull my trailer with and which one I drive all the rest of the time. I get an honest day in day out 50 mpg and have had NO problems at all. I will be happy when Toyota makes a diesel hybrid truck and I can sell my Durango.


May 19, 2008 11:57 AM

i hate to tell you all this but your so called made in America cars are 100% American made the v6 engines in some Chevy cars is a Honda engine the impala is made in canada so you see just because your car says ford/ Chevy or dodge doesn't mean a thing all cars are using parts from overseas


September 29, 2008 10:49 PM


David S.

October 29, 2008 08:36 AM

I come from Australia & Toyota are no.1 &kicking butt down this way. Mitsubishi have closed & gone & loosing market share, with their imports. Ford are going down the shute fast & could be even gone soon, as far as a manufacture. GM alias Holden are no 2 now after being no. 1 for a long time. Toyota & Nissan 4WDs are known to be way tougher than anything 4wd from the US. Just travel to all our big mines & see what they use & abuse, Toyota & Nissan Diesels & same with most vehicles used out back. We are in for interesting times with vehicles & fuel. By the way we run Ford, GM & Toyota & the Toyotas are way cheaper to run & maintain.

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