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.

3 die after car flies into harbor after drift racing

Three people died early Monday after their car plunged into the sea at Kobe harbor. Police said that tire skid marks indicate the car was drift racing, TBS reported.According to police, the car—with three men and one woman—went into the sea at about 3 a.m. A witness alerted police.A 24-year-old man in the front passenger seat got out through a window, but the other two men, aged 24, and a 21-year-old woman, were trapped, police said.The survivor confirmed to police that they were drifting.

Japan Auto Lobby Calls for Weaken Yen

The head of Japan’s auto lobby urged the government and the Bank of Japan on Friday to quickly implement effective steps to counter the strong yen, after it hit a seven-month high against the dollar the previous day.

“The current foreign exchange level, which is far from the actual ability of the Japanese economy, goes much beyond the limits of what companies can do through efforts to cut costs,” Akio Toyoda, the head of Japan Automobile Manufacturers Association (JAMA), said in a statement.

“Japan’s manufacturing is facing a great crisis again, and if things remain this way it could have a further impact on employment,” said Toyoda, who is president of Toyota Motor Corp.

Read the rest of the story: Japan auto lobby calls for govt, BOJ to counter strong yen.

Tokyo Motor Show opens Saturday with car firms facing challenges

The Tokyo Motor Show kicks off Saturday amid a variety of challenges facing the automobile industry, including intensifying global competition, the yen’s historic surge and supply disruptions caused by natural disasters.

For Japanese automakers, emerging rivals in South Korea and other Asian countries have joined the ranks of long-standing competitors such as General Motors of the U.S. and Volkswagen AG of Germany.

The yen’s record rise has also cut into repatriated profits and eroded Japanese makers’ competitiveness overseas.

Read the rest of the story: Motor show opens with car firms facing triple whammy.

Japan’s Automakers May Flee Strong Yen

The strong yen is forcing Toyota Motor and Nissan Motor to consider changes in production plans and alliance strategies, the top executives of both Japanese automakers said Thursday.

The yen, which hit a record high against the dollar in late October, has undercut profits for Toyota and Nissan, which both build vehicles in Japan for overseas markets.

To offset the strong yen, Toyota may “deepen alliances” with suppliers and dealers, Akio Toyoda, president of Toyota, said during the opening of a Toyota plant in Mississippi that will build Corolla cars now being manufactured in Japan.

Read the rest of the story: Japan’s Automakers May Flee Strong Yen.

Honda to Cut Exports from Japan

Honda plans to reduce exports from Japan to as little as 10% of domestic production as the strong yen erodes earnings from overseas shipments.

Honda aims to sell 80% to 90% of Japan-made vehicles in its home market, spokeswoman Tomoko Uchida said. Last year, the carmaker shipped 310,254 vehicles, or 34% of its Japanese production, overseas.

Japanese carmakers including Honda, Toyota and Nissan are moving more production out of Japan to counter the effect of the strong yen. Honda plans to maintain domestic production of about 1 million vehicles a year, Uchida said, reiterating a previous statement by the company.

Read the rest of the story: Honda to cut exports from Japan.

Japan auto sales rise for first time in 13 months

Japan’s domestic sales of new cars, trucks and buses saw their first rise in 13 months in September, reflecting the industry’s rebound from the huge disruption sparked by Japan’s quake and tsunami.

Sales in September grew 1.7 percent from a year earlier to 313,790 vehicles, the Japan Automobile Dealers Association said Monday.

The figures do not include sales of mini vehicles — which have an engine capacity of 660 cc or less — and reflect a low basis of comparison from the same period a year earlier, when state subsidies for the purchase of environmentally friendly vehicles ended.

Read the rest of the story: Japan auto sales rise first time in 13 months.

Japans yen policy puts output at risk says Nissan’s Cheif Ghosn

Nissan Motor Co 7201.T Chief Executive Carlos Ghosn said the Japanese governments efforts to rein in the rise of the yen had failed, forcing manufacturers to reduce investment in Japan and shift output elsewhere.

"If the Japanese government wants to really safeguard and develop employment, then something has to be done," Ghosn told Reuters in an interview in New York. "We have been talking about this as an industry for a while. Unfortunately, it keeps happening. It looks like whatever effort has been done so far has not delivered results."

"We have to have some vision of what is going to be the exchange rate landscape," he added.

Read the rest of the story: Japans yen policy puts output at risk: Ghosn.

Japan Automobile Manufacturers Association Says Demand May Drop 14% This Year

Demand for cars, trucks and buses in Japan may drop 14 percent this year after the March 11 earthquake cut production and demand, the Japan Automobile Manufacturers Association said.

Sales may drop to 4.25 million vehicles, the automakers group said today in a statement in Tokyo. For the fiscal year ending March 31, demand may drop 3.3 percent from a year earlier to 4.45 million, it said.

Read the rest of the story: Japan Automakers Group Says Demand to Drop 14% This Year.

Toyota Adds Pixis Space to Japan Lineup, first tiny ‘minicar’

Toyota is selling its first "minicar" in Japan as demand increases for the tiny vehicles which are popular for short commutes.

Toyota, Japan’s top automaker, launched the Pixis Space minivehicle manufactured by group company Daihatsu Motor Co., today.

Minivehicles, or "kei," are defined under Japanese regulations as having maximum length of 11.15 feet, width of 4.86 feet, height of 6.56 feet and engine displacement of less than 660 cc.

Taxes are lower for minicars, which now make up about a third of Japan’s annual vehicle sales.

Read the rest of the story: Toyota adds first tiny ‘minicar’ to Japan lineup.