Toyota Gets Its Performance Brand

(c) Bertel Schmitt

Rumors that Toyota would turn its Gazoo Racing Team into a performance sub-brand had been floating around Tokyo for more than a year. Today, it became official.

“The decision was made to launch a new sports brand, the GR brand,” Shigeki Tomoyama, CEO of GR, said at an event at Toyota’s Megaweb in Tokyo.

As expected, GR becomes Toyota’s performance sub-brand, something like BMW’s M, Mercedes’s AMG, Volkswagen’s R or Lexus’s F. The GR brand is being launched with nine models, ranging from a souped-up GR 86, on the basis of Toyota’s 86 sports car, all the way to a hot-rod GR Sport Voxy minivan. [Continue Reading]

Nissan’s Leaf Is Not Going After Tesla; It Wants All Compact Car Buyers

(c) Bertel Schmitt

Nissan’s second-generation Leaf, launched yesterday with aplomb, appears to be quite well received. There was apprehension among Nissan’s PR cadre that the company would get a public drubbing for equipping the car with a battery only good for 150 miles. But the media definitely got the message that the new Leaf is so equipped to hit a price point. Motortrend even came up with new math: “Why 29,950 is more important to some than 150.” As in dollars, and miles.

Nissan could have easily equipped the new Leaf with a 60-kWh battery that would better Tesla’s Model3, and match the battery of Chevrolet’s Bolt. That it wasn’t done is a triumph of sound business over bragging rights. Nissan wants to “democratize” EVs, as Nissan’s chief marketing officer, Daniele Schillaci, likes to put it. Schillaci wants to sell the Leaf to all people who are in the market for a C-segment sedan, not just to EV converts. As a mass-market maker, Nissan knows the power of price points, and of value for money.

[Continue Reading]

The girls of the Tokyo Auto Salon 2017. And a few cars

Each year in Tokyo has an auspicious start: The Tokyo Auto Salon, probably the craziest car show in the whole wide world. And after Victorianism has declared victory over car shows elsewhere, the Tokyo Auto Salon probably remains the world’s sexiest.

The Tokyo Auto Salon is far out!  All the way to Chiba, beyond Tokyo’s very generously drawn city limits. From where I live in Tokyo, it takes me as long to get to the Tokyo Auto Salon as from central Tokyo to Nagoya. The trip is worth it, and I make it every year.

As a Dailykanban tradition, here this year’s Tokyo Auto Salon picture album. And no, they don’t come with the car.

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Entering the Tokyo Auto Salon on Friday morning, we are saluted by a uniformed guard

Mysterious Orient: Low Taxes Send Car Sales Lower In Japan

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Except in certain political quarters, high taxes are generally seen as an impediment to sales. The reverse seems to be true in Japan. There, a postponed sales taxes hike darkens the outlook for new car sales.

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The Cheap Yen Party Is Over: Nissan’s Lackluster Earnings Promise Gloom For Japanese Automakers

Nissan earnings - picture courtesy Bertel Schmitt

For more than two years, the Japanese auto industry profited from a cheap domestic currency, which translated foreign sales in to fat earnings at home. The party is over. This became clear today at 16:30 local, when Nissan put the last quarter earnings on the desks of reporters assembled at the company’s 8th floor meeting room of its Yokohama, Japan, headquarters. The company’s first-quarter net profit fell 10.7% year-on-year, operating profits in the same period were down 9.2%.

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DailyKanban Behind The Great Firewall of China

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DailyKanban’s Bertel Schmitt is headed to Beijing for the auto show, and will not be posting daily news briefs for the next few days while stuck behind the Great Firewall. While he is away gathering the latest news from the world’s largest car market, you can stay up to date on the latest by following E.W. Niedermeyer on Twitter.

Toyota Launches A Wooden Car

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The Ise Grand Shrine, dedicated to the sun goddess Amaterasu, is the holiest shrine of the Shinto religion. Every 20 years, people tear it down. Then, they build it new, all from wood, without a single nail. They have been doing this for around 1,300 years. Instead of preserving a single structure, the original design, and most of all the skill to build, are preserved from the eroding effects of time. “Its secret isn’t heroic engineering or structural overkill, but rather cultural continuity,” writes the Long Now Foundation.  Now, Toyota does the same with cars.

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Ghosn Hints At Very Low Cost EVs: “People Want Them To Be Cheap.”

Ghosn in Wuhan - Picture courtesy Forbes

The western world may be fascinated by electrified luxury cars carrying the marques of Tesla, BMW, Audi and a number of exotic upstarts, but the true EV revolution seems to be finally happening in the developing markets of Asia, where zero emission vehicles are needed the most. French automaker Renault SA wants to be part of the real EV revolution, if reports in UK media are correct.

At the inauguration of Renault’s new Chinese plant, built together with joint venture partner Dongfeng in Wuhan, a city in China’s central Hubei province, Renault’s CEO Carlos Ghosn hinted at a future line of “cheap and frugal” electric vehicles targeted at the Chinese market in big numbers.

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