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2012 Toyota Hi-Lux: More Fun, More Power

My girlfriend added that I should get a second-hand car. She just loves to travel, and yes I love travelling as well. Actually, I’m starting to save so that I can have my own second-hand car more like a Toyota or Honda vehicle- not too fancy, just right for city driving and for travel needs. But if and I’ll say this again, I have the means then I am strongly considering Toyota Hi-Lux. This is just a power player on and off the road, and this is tried and tested. I have seen how this worked when I was still connected with a construction company. This is the kind of vehicle that gets used in visiting unpaved roads and rough and rocky project sites, and the Toyota Hi-Lux delivers.

I know there are many fans of the Hi-Lux out there. And the good news is that the 2012 Toyota Hi-Lux is available, back with new designs and extra power. Based on multiple resources, the latest touch on the Hi-Lux features a new upper dashboard design with new, horizontal center instrument cluster. On the exterior, expect to find new bonnet, radiator grille, headlamps and front bumper. By the way, the 2012 Toyota Hi-Lux will come in four trims, the DLX, Hi-Lux DLX+, SR and Toyota Hi-Lux SR+. When it comes to body styles, choose from Single Cab, Extra and Double Cab. When it comes to power, expect 106 kW and 343 N m of torque and lower fuel consumption if compared with previous models.

But why Jamie Lee Curtis..?

So why all of a sudden I am writing about Jamie Lee Curtis? In a blog full of auto-related news and views, you may probably think that a Jamie Lee Curtis blog entry is not the right content to mix up with other auto related content. Well, I do too. But when I check my stats, a great percentage of my hits come from the keyword: Jamie Lee Curtis. Interesting, right? If I can remember it right, I did write something about the FCX Clarity and Jamie Lee Curtis. The actress is one of the first owners of the FCX Clarity leased by Honda.

But I am not complaining; thanks for the hits as I needed this in order to continue this blog. Don’t want to leave this auto blog high and dry; we may be separated from our former company but our connection with all things cars and car parts will always be there, somewhere, somehow.

Toyota, Honda on top of Consumer Reports

In the issue of the magazine that will hit newsstands this March, Toyota is listed by Consumer Reports as one of the leading names when it comes to quality and reliable cars and trucks. Detroit automakers on the other hand topped one category. This was announced by the top editors of the magazine Thursday. This is just one of the many validations that the Japanese carmaker has gained ground and continues to  dominate when it comes to quality and reliable cars and trucks. The editors of the said magazine also noted the fact that the industry is under a tough economic test. Toyota took home the honors for the best mid-sized SUV for the Toyota Highlander.  Toyota also netted the best small SUV for its Rav4 and the Toyota Sienna was named as the best mini van. Toyota Motors is considered as the leading name for the year among individual categorie as it wins in four categories which also include the green car. And for the best over-all vehicle, then the honor goes to Lexus-made Lexus LS 460 which is the luxury division of Toyota.

Honda Motors is a big winner too, as this Japanese automaker was named as the top automaker for the third year in a row. The rankings of the company was based on the performance and the reliability of the vehicle. And these are determined thru testing and customer surveys. Honda tops the overall list with Subaru coming in second and Toyota was third. Asian car manufacturers are doing well for the third year in a row. According to an editor of Consumer Reports, Honda tend to build well-rounded vehicles that do well in CR tests and in customer reliability surveys.

General Motors scored for Chevrolet Avalanche as best pick-up, and this was the only top vehicle for General Motors. This replaced Chevy Silverado 1500.

Hydrogen Car is Here

That’s the Honda FCX Clarity and production starts this week.

What makes the Honda Clarity a complete stand out in the field is the fact that it uses a fuel cell, and its streamlined layout that is made possible by the compact layout and the car’s efficient powertrain components. The car works and power itselfs by combining hydrogen with oxygen to make electricity. This electrical output is the one that powers the electrical motor and the one that pushes the Clarity to run on the road. The Clarity is emission-free as its only waste is water. The operation of the FCX is basically anchored on five steps. The Hydrogen tank is where the hydrogen is stored, there is the V Flow fuel cell stack that generates the electricity, the Lithium-ion battery that stores the electricity, the Power Drive Unit that manages the electrical flow and the electric drive motor that runs the Clarity.

The Hydrogen tank on board the Clarity is the place where Hydrogen is stored. The V Flow produces the electricity for the vehicle. It combines the hydrogen with oxygen from air and this results in the creation of the electricity. That electricity is the one that powers the motor and runs the vehicle. The fuel cell on board the car is made from thin electrolyte film that is wedged in betwen the two electrode layers in betweeb two separators. Hundred layers of these cells are then connected in series. So how does this works. The Hydrogen will be delivered into an anoded of the fuel cell. The Hydrogen molecules are then divided into electrons and protons thur the use of a catalyst. The electrons are then channeled through the circuit in order to produce electricity. The protons on the other hand pass thrugh a polymer electrolyte membrane. The oxygen enters the cathode and combines with electrons and protons to form water. In the end of the reaction, water vapor and heat are released. The Lithium-ion battery is a supplemental power source on the Clarity. This effectively replaces the ultra-capacitor from earlier FCX models. This is a small battery that cna fit underneath the rear seat. The compact electric motor that serves the Clarity is a small and powerful motor. The motor traces its roots to the one that’s developed by Honda for the EV PLus electric vehicle. Low noise and high efficiency; things that can be delivered by this motor for the Clarity. The Power Drive Unit or the PDU manages the electrical power produced by the car. This is compact and high performing as well. Innovation marks the new powertrain of the FCX Clarity. With its design and layout, the powertrain of the vehicle has become graceful.

$30M For Plug-in Hybrid Research

Too little, too late? Either way, at least the government showed its determination in making sure that hybrid plug-in research will get the attention of most carmakers. The government thru Department of Energy has earmarked $30 million to develop and demonstrate Plug-in Hybrid Electric Vehicles research projects over the next three years. The said amount will be shared by Ford, General Motors and General Electric. The department said that the projects that can be funded by the money will hasten the development of vehicles traveling up to 40 miles without recharging. The said project will also address critical barriers to achieving the DOE’s goal of making such cars cost-competitive by 2014 and by making these cars ready for commercialization by 2016.

The announcement was made by the Assistant Secretary of the Department of Energy, Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy Andy Karsner. Selected projects will be undertaken and these projects are geared towards the acceleration of the development of PHEVS. The Assistant Secretary added that this demonstrated a shared public-private sector commitment to advance clean vehicle technologies and can help reduce the dependence on oil and at the same time confronting the serious challenges of climate changes. He added that the Department remains committed to the research, development and deployment of cleaner and more efficient vehicle options for consumers from laboratory to the street.

Battle of Low Carbon Cars

Chevy Volt E-Flex Electric Hybrid Concept Car

Escalating oil price. Growing need to be environmentally-aware.

These are just two of the things that fuel car consumers and car manufacturers to drive up their research and development and focus on fuel efficient cars. In fact, the changing market conditions and realities has drove Ford Motors to re-assess its position and has seen its profits dwindle this year. General Motors and Chrysler has also the same problem since these manufacturers heavily relies on profits coming from pick-ups and SUVs. As we all know, with escalating oil prices, these gas guzzlers are the ones that take the hit. As a testament to the escalating prices of oil, the market saw the price of oil reaching $135 per barrel this week. Actually the price per barrel hit $135.09 but then fell back shortly to settle at $130.81 the moment the dollar strengthens. But even though its price continues to soar, demands for oil remains the same. As mentioned, another thing that prompts companies and car consumers to reconsider is the need to cut on emissions and the growing trend to be environmentally-aware. People right now seek vehicles that has some respect for the environment. These things are the ones that motivate car consumers to re-assess their options, to cut their consumptions or to change their mode of transport. The reactions of the consumers can be seen in sales figures right now, and the demand of vehicles. We all know now that Ford is one company that has realized the shift in dynamics. The fall of truck sales and the soaring of gas prices has led Ford to cut production and has led the company to realize less profits. But cutting production and anticipating less profits aren’t the only thing that these car companies do right now. The focus right now is to design, develop and mass-produce cars that pollute less and can go on for miles with the use of the least amount of gas. Enter the low carbon cars.

The low-down on low carbon cars.

Low carbon cars, or simply those cars that pollute less are the rage right now in the market, and advocated by environmental engineers. In fact, these engineers call for government support for this initiative. They said that the government needs to pump extra cash from fuel duty so that this may reduce our dependency on fossil fuels. A number of groups call for a carbon emissions cut to 80 g per kilometer by 2020. Automakers has responded and they are now developing vehicles that go that way- the way of low carbon cars.

General Motors is taking a lead right now, though Toyota thru its Toyota Prius has been in the business for some time and has been successful. Aside from Toyota and General Motors, we also have Honda, Nissan and Ford. Ford is expected to deliver its very own hybrids that will join the Ford Escape SUV in the Ford’s gasoline-electric line-up. At the heart of the Honda’s technology will be the Eco Boost engines that can generate plenty of power and better fuel economy. * More on Eco Boost in later postings. Nissan on the other hand plans to dip its fingers on the hybrid industry by 2010.

Then there’s General Motor’s Chevrolet Volt. The Volt is by far the sexiest green car of GM. Expect to see the Volt before the year ends in Paris and actual production vehicle can be seen by 2010. This sedan is expected to run for 40 miles before the small gasoline engine takes stage and recharge the battery for another 600 miles. For longer trips, it is expected that the Volt can deliver 100 miles per gallon. For General Motors, it isn’t just the Volt. An 80 mpg version of the Saturn Vue SUV is in the works as well and this will be delivered by next year. The Vue will be the first plug-in hybrid in the US once it debuts in the market. * More on plug-in hybrids on later postings.

These move by these companies is sure to address the needs for fuel efficient and eco-friendly cars. And most of the targets by these companies are pegged on 2010. So we will see by then if these vehicles can make a significant impact. But right now, we see oil prices surging ahead, going to record highs.

Consumer Reports’ Bests for 2008

I already did a write-up about the vehicles that made the cut and made Consumer Reports proud. And it is my intention for the rest of the week to take note of these vehicles and cite some of their strengths and features so that their citations can be best understood. It was already mentioned that Hyundai sent two in the list, Chevy has one and Japanese car manufacturers headed by Honda and Toyota dominated the list. All these vehicles need to meet stringent requirements in terms of road-test performance, reliability and safety. Also   Consumer Reports added another metric for which they can based their ratings- the provision of the Electronic Stability Control or the ESC either as a standard equipment or as a readily available option. These are Consumer Reports’ criteria in choosing the best in the segment.

  • Road tests: Each Top Pick scores at or near the top of its category among more than 260 vehicles we’ve recently tested at our Auto Test Center.
  • Reliability: Each has an average or better predicted-reliability Rating, based on the problems subscribers reported on almost 1.3 million vehicles in our Annual Car Reliability Survey.
  • Safety: Top Picks have performed adequately in overall safety if tested by the government or the insurance industry. Starting this year, they also must provide a critical safety feature, electronic stability control (ESC), either as standard equipment or as a readily available option.

 On to my next focus. A US company entry- the Chevrolet Silverado 1500 Crew Cab as this years ‘pick-up’ truck.

Hyundai Joins the Big League

HYUNDAI SANTA FE

Give a little space, Honda. This year, a new name is recogized as member of the elite class when it comes to reliability and dependability, at least based on the opinion of Consumer Reports. Based on the ’10 Bests listings of Consumer Reports for 2008, a new name has been ushered into the elite list. South Korea’s Hyundai brand has been ackowledged as makers of reliable and dependable cars.

For two years running, its all about Honda and their reliable cars but not for 2008 as US and Hyundai cars made an appearance on the list. The appearance of Hyundai is more significant as this is the first time that this brand has managed to get the citation from the respected Consumer Reports.  Hyundai’s Elantra SE was named as the top small sedan and the Hyundai’s Santa Fe was named the top mid-sized sport utility vehicle.

But if you notice that I only mentioned two Hyundai vehicles in the top 10 and another 1 from Chevy, its because Japanese car manufacturers still tops ’em all. Japanese car makers sent 7 entries into the top ten of Consumer Reports.  This goes to show that these car makers continued their dominance in the ratings for performance, safety and reliability. And what are these cars and from what manufacturer?  The Lexus 460L is there as the best luxury sedan. Dubbed ‘greenest’ car is Prius that can be powered by gasoline or electricity. Prius’ feat is remarkable as this is the fifth time that this car model was selected on its category. Prius and the Lexus are of course products of Toyota.

Though Toyota sent two in the list, the best cars that are sold in the US market are still coming from the Honda brand. Honda did send one in the list, the Honda Accord but what makes the feat of Honda excellent is the fact all Honda vehicles that are rated by Consumer Reports made it to the list of Consumer Report’s recommended lists.

The citation that has been received by Hyundai is an affirmation that indeed Hyundai has turned serious into producing top quality vehicles. As it can be remembered, the brand’s reputation has been not-so good in terms of quality and reliability. But over time, Hyundai made for the lost ground and found its place now as one of the best. In fact, its reputation is fast approaching that of Honda’s.

Here’s the rest of the top picks, as selected by Consumer Reports for 2008.

  • Best Green Car by Toyota Prius
  • Best Small Sedan by Hyundai Elantra SE
  • Best Family Sedan by Honda Accord
  • Best Upscale Sedan by Infiniti G35
  • Best Luxury Sedan by Lexus LS
  • Fun-to-Drive Pick Up Mazda MX-5 Miata
  • Top Small SUV is Toyota Rav4
  • Top Midsize SUV is Hyundai’s Santa Fe
  • Top-Pick Up Minivan is Toyota Sienna

As mentioned these listings that was created by Consumer Reports was based on reliability ratings, road tests and the ratings in insurance industry and government safety testing.

Aside from the fact that Consumer Reports cited two Hyundai vehicles for their reliability, the publication also chose three Hyundai vehicles for its ‘Most Overlooked Cars’ listing. These Hyundai vehicles are the Kia Rondo and the Optima and the Hyundai Azera.

Automotive sector in recession? Or maybe not.

The US automotive industry is in recession so says the Nissan CEO Carlos Ghosn. Is this really happening? The Nissan CEO said this on his visit to South Korea and he stressed the spiralling cost of iron ore, precious metals and other materials. He added that the cost of acquiring these materials have dramatically risen for the fourth straight year. Another point that has been zero-ed in to drive the point was the significant drop in car sales in 2007. For 2007, US car and truck sales numbered 16.1 million units as compared to the 16.6 million unit performance for 2006. Rising prices, a slight sales drop and a recognition that the US economy may be teetering on recession prompted the Nissan CEO to make his opinion public.

But is this pronouncement a signal for the industry players to press the distress signal button? The CEO added that this recession may not actually lasts and the key is to re-direct one’s attention to other key markets. Ghosn referred to these markets as the ’emerging markets’ and narrated that these countries include Russia, China, India and Brazil.

No car manufacturer can ignore these markets, Ghosn said.

But what about the familiar markets that once dominated the sector, like the United States and Japan? The Nissan CEO added that these two markets have been stagnant for the past four years and the prospects for the current year is not good. If the Japanese and the American markets have hit a snag, then these emerging markets are the ones that show promise. Take the case of the Russian market, this European market expanded by around 25 percent last year together with Brazil. China followed suit and notched 23.4 percent and India grows at 20 percent. Russia’s emergence is underscored as its growth is expected to surpass that of Germany in the next two years as Europe’s leading market for cars.

This is just one opinion and the CEO for Honda offered a contrasting take on the scenario. Honda’s CEO Takeo Fukui believes otherwise  and still believes that there is still a ‘firm demand’ for vehicles in the US.