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Saturday, April 3rd, 2010

A little publizied act occurred this week that went largely unnoticed and could affect the future availability of Sequoia, Tundra and even 4 Runner . sequoia grillePresident Obama has forced the big three US carmakers, and their unions, to accept tough mileage rules for cars and SUVs. The rules will cut emissions from vehicles by more than a third over the next four years.

Whether the new rules end America’s love affair with huge cars like Sequoia remains to be seen. But they are being introduced at a time when SUV sales are at a fraction of their peak level five years ago. Their demise coincides with the country’s first mass-produced “plug-in” electric car, which finally rolled off a Michigan production line this week.

From 2016, new cars and SUVs will have to deliver an average of 35.5 miles per gallon, comparable for the first time with European and Japanese requirements.

SUV mileage under the new regime is expected to average 28.8mpg, or nearly three times that of the Hummer H1 that Arnold Schwarzenegger once drove into Times Square in New York to begin the vehicle’s transition from armoured personnel carrier into celebrity runabout.

The new rules end a notorious loophole in US law by which SUVs were exempt from emissions standards that applied to cars. This made them so much more profitable that at the peak of the sport utility boom, a single Ford plant was generating up to $15 million a day in pre-tax profits.

The rules were welcomed yesterday by the industry and environmentalists. Of course, The US Alliance of Automobile Manufacturers, had little choice but to accept the standards after the $25 billion bailout of Chrysler and General Motors.

The Big Three producers will have to spend about $52 billion to upgrade engines, power trains and air-conditioning systems to meet the requirements. The average cost of a new car or SUV is expected to rise by $1,000 as a result, meaning that the future of American motoring depends on consumers’ willingness to pay a modest premium for old-fashioned cars — or a larger one for something very different. Higher prices and an uncertain economy under our present government will most likely cause manufacturers including Toyota to be very cautious with inventory levels on the large vehicles like Sequoia, Tundra and 4Runner.

US motorists have shown repeatedly that their affection for big cars rebounds as gas prices fall, but the new regulations reflect a long-term trend. On average, Ford sold 412,000 Explorer SUVs each year from 1995 to 2003. By 2008 sales had slumped to 78,000. GM has sold the Hummer brand to a Chinese rival and SUV sales fell overall by 52 per cent last year alone.

The new standards are based on a 2007 Supreme Court Ruling that reclassified carbon dioxide as a pollutant. They will be enforced by the Environmental Protection Agency, whether Congress approves or not.


Monday, February 15th, 2010

It used to be that you had to be a special friend of Toyota — or an area student on a field trip — to score a tour of the Toyota’s Gibson County manufacturing plant in Indiana…That changes Tuesday!tundra explosion picture

On Tuesday, Toyota opens its new Visitors Center and begins offering public tours on a regular schedule. Previously, tours were offered only to school groups or those with ties to the company.

Toyota says the move will help the public better understand the company, area commerce and tourism. Officials say it will strengthen the Tri-State’s list of attractions.

“We’re very eager to show off this facility,” says a senior vice president at Toyota Motor Manufacturing Indiana. “I think it’ll help people understand the complexity of auto manufacturing.”

The Free Tours begin in Toyota’s Visitors Center. Through text, photos, artifacts, sound and hands-on activities, the center presents the history of the Princeton-area business community, Toyota’s development as a company and explains the manufacturing process. Visitors can try on the protective gear worn by production employees, and they can see a demonstration of the process through which Toyota makes plastic bumpers and dashboards.

A Major Feature Highlight at the Visitors Center is a 2008 Toyota Tundra pickup suspended from the ceiling. WOW!!!…Just look at the picture of it. Various components of the vehicle are pulled apart to reveal how parts fit together. Also in the Visitors Center is a second-floor meeting space that Toyota will offer free of charge to civic and nonprofit organizations.

After visitors watch a short movie, they board a tram for a 20-minute plant tour.

On the tour, visitors watch Toyota employees (and robots) weld, stamp and assemble the parts that create the plant’s Siennas, Highlanders and Sequoias.

At a preview event last week for invited guests, tourism and commerce officials said the tours have been long anticipated.

The Gibson County Chamber of Commerce, said their office regularly receives queries from people asking about Toyota tours. “Everyone is very curious about auto assembly plants. They’re really fascinating,” a spoksman said.

Toyota’s Princeton plant began operations in 1998 — so why wait until now to offer public tours?

The company first wanted to establish itself in the area. “It was something we knew we had to take a little time to grow into,” an official said.

Groups of 16 or more people must make a reservation to take a plant tour. To make a group reservation, please call us at (812) 387-2266 or (888) 696-8211 (88TOYOTA11).

Groups with fewer than 16 people are welcome to join a plant tour if space permits; however, reservations are recommended. To make a reservation, please go to Reservations.

You do not need a reservation for the Visitors Center.