Toyota recalls 242,000 Prius, Lexus Hybrid Cars

Toyota Motor Corp. says it is recalling about 242,000 of its Prius and Lexus hybrid vehicles due to problems with their braking systems.

The company said Wednesday the recall applies to about 233,000 Prius vehicles made between March and October 2009 and about 9,000 Lexus HS250h models made between June and October 2009.

Toyota said the Prius vehicles affected are sold worldwide. The Lexus sedans are sold in the U.S. and Japan.

The automaker said brake pressure parts in the vehicles could crack due to vibration, slowing response times.

Tokuo Fukuichi Returns to Toyota with a new look and character for it car designs

When Tokuo Fukuichi was brought back to Toyota Motor Corp to become head of design, he was given a simple directive from President Akio Toyoda: make Toyota cars simple and cool. He took a risk and objected.

“I said, look, Mr. President, just cool is not good enough,” Fukuichi told Reuters. “Toyota had already tried hard to fix ugly parts and make them look better. What Toyota lacks the most is character.”

Fukuichi, 61, knows something about character. In the late 1980s, he designed the first generation Previa, also known as the “egg-van” — one of the most love-it-or-hate-it Toyota vehicles ever.

For Toyoda, who has criticised his company for losing sight of the fun and excitement of the automobile and has tried to shake up its stodgy and engineer-dominated design process, Fukuichi brought the right kind of edginess to the job. In a rare move, he asked Fukuichi to rejoin Toyota in 2011 after he had left for group company Kanto Auto Works.

Read the rest of the story: Toyota drops “plain vanilla” styling with eye on Hyundai’s rise.

Nissan Recalling 500,000 March Cars in Japan

Nissan Motor Co Ltd intends to recall 498,793 March/Micra hatchbacks in Japan to fix a problem with the rear cabin light.

No accidents or injuries have been reported due to the fault, which only occurred in cars sold in Japan, a Nissan spokesman said.

The company did not disclose any estimate of the cost of the recalls.

F1 Racer Kamui Kobayashi starts website to raise funds

Kamui Kobayashi, Japan’s only current Formula One driver, is hoping a website campaign can help raise the funds to keep him on the starting grid next season after being dropped by the Sauber team.

Speaking to reporters at the season-ending Brazilian Grand Prix on Friday after Sauber announced Mexican Esteban Gutierrez would be taking his place in 2013, Kobayashi did his best to sound confident.

“We see I think still some seats that are available so we try to get a seat,” he said. “If we can find some sponsors I think it is easier.”

Read the rest of the story: Kobayashi sets up website to try and raise F1 funds.

Honda recalls over 260,000 CR-Vs in North America

Honda Motor is recalling more than 260,000 CR-Vs sold in North America because of a faulty automatic window switch.

The recall targets the 2002 to 2006 model years.

The Japanese auto firm says an electrical switch in the window could fail or cause smoke or a fire when large amounts of water enter through the window.

Honda has reported the recall of 268,000 vehicles to the US National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.

The company says it has received several reports of fire with the vehicles, but that none resulted in injuries.

Last month, Honda recalled more than 600,000 Accords sold in the North American market, saying a faulty power steering hose could leak oil.

Toyota Rising Again After Recalls

Toyota roared back to a hefty profit in the first quarter and said on Friday that it intended to build a record-breaking 9.76 million cars this year, leading a recovery by Japanese automakers after a year of natural disasters and a punishingly strong currency.

Though the strong yen continues to weigh on the bottom lines of Japanese exporters, many other things are going right for Japanese automakers. Supply chains that were severed are now up and running, and manufacturers like Toyota and Honda, racing to meet pent-up demand, are fast regaining lost ground in profitable markets like the United States. Japanese government incentives on fuel-efficient cars have revived markets at home.

Read the rest of the story: Toyota Raises Sales Target as Quarterly Profit Rises.

Super Discount Auto Rentals New Trend in Japan

A growing number of gasoline stations, used-car dealerships and auto repair shops have begun offering “super discount” car rentals to offset falling sales as car ownership declines.

Auto-related businesses can offer cheap rentals by making use of existing staff, repair facilities and, for used-car dealers, vehicle inventories to maintain a fleet of vehicles.

Discount rental operations are meeting strong demand from those who choose not to or cant afford to own a car amid declining incomes and rising fuel, insurance and maintenance costs, in addition to the threat of higher taxes.

A gas station in the western Tokyo suburb of Kunitachi is one business involved in the trend.”We managed to avert closure thanks to the rentals,” said station head Toshiaki Akuzawa, 46.

Read the rest of the story: Auto-linked firms launch super discount rentals.

Suzuki plant closed down after HR chief killed in riots

The top Indian carmaker Maruti Suzuki has shut one of its two factories after rioting sparked by a labour dispute killed one person and injured dozens of others.

Puneep Dhawan, a company spokesman, said yesterday the plant stopped production on Wednesday night because of fire damage caused by rioting workers. “The plant is burnt in sections. You cannot make any cars,” he said.

The body was identified as that of Awanish Kumar Dev, general manager, human resources, at the factory, according to the Press Trust of India reports

Read the rest of the story: Suzuki plant closed down after HR chief killed in riots.

Japan’s Modi Corp Unveils Do-It-Yourself EV – Pius

Modi Corp, a Japan-based company that prototypes vehicles, announced that it has developed a built-it-yourself micro electric vehicle (EV).

The EV, “Pius,” is a single-seater and can be registered as a class-1 motorized bicycle in Japan. The company expects that the EV will be used as an educational tool for learning the basic functions and structure of EV. It is scheduled to be released in or after the spring of 2013.

Modi aims to sell the Pius to educational institutions such as universities, colleges of technology and car mechanics’ schools. Also, it offers a service of embedding components that its customers use for research and development in the EV so that they can use the vehicle for the evaluation of the components. The price of the EV has not been decided yet.

Read the rest of the story: Japan-based Firm Unveils Built-it-yourself EV.

Japan: Speeding Lamborghini Driver Caught on YouTube

A Japanese executive driving his Lamborghini at more than twice the speed limit was nabbed after he posted a video online chronicling his racing exploits, police said Tuesday.

The 38-year-old man whizzed around the western city of Hiroshima at nearly 160 kilometres per hour 97 miles an hour in a zone restricted to just 60 kilometres an hour during his joyride two years ago.

He reportedly rigged a video camera inside the Italian sports car and later uploaded the footage to video-sharing website YouTube, where a viewer saw the footage and reported it to police, authorities said.

Read the rest of the story: Japan Lamborghini driver nabbed after online video.