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Toyota invests £300m in electric air taxi company

Toyota invests in Joby Aviation

Toyota has teamed up with Joby Aviation to develop an electric vertical take-off and landing (eVTOL) aircraft.

Little information has been released, but Toyota hopes to commercialise the eVTOL, with the aim of delivering “fast, quiet and affordable air transportation”.

An eVTOL combines elements of helicopters and small aeroplanes, offering zero emissions, fast travel and quiet operation. Details of the prototype aircraft and the production plans will be announced at a later date.

Earlier this month, Hyundai and Uber unveiled a ride-sharing air taxi concept at CES 2020. The companies hope to be airborne within three years.

Toyota is the lead investor in Joby Aviation’s $590 million (£452 million) Series C financing. In addition to a $394 million (£302 million) investment, Toyota will also share its expertise in manufacturing, quality and cost control.

Founded in 2009, Joby Aviation is at the forefront of the Urban Air Mobility (UAM) market. The Californian company has developed a four passenger aircraft that can fly at speeds of up to 200mph, delivering 150+ miles of flying ranging from a single charge.

‘On land, and now in the sky‘

Toyota logo

Akio Toyoda, Toyota Motor Corporation president and CEO, said: “Air transportation has been a long-term goal for Toyota, and while we continue our work in the automobile business, this agreement sets our sights on the sky.

“As we take up the challenge of air transportation together with Joby, an innovator in the emerging eVTOL space, we tap the potential to revolutionise future transportation and people’s lives.

“Through this new and exciting endeavour, we hope to deliver freedom of movement and enjoyment to customers everywhere, on land, and now in the sky.”

JoeBen Bevirt, Joby Aviation founder and CEO, added: “This collaboration with Toyota represents an unprecedented commitment of money and resources for us and for this new industry, from one of the world’s leading automakers.

“Toyota is known globally for the quality and reliability of its products, driven by meticulous attention to detail and manufacturing processes. I am excited to harness Toyota’s engineering and manufacturing prowess to drive us towards our dream of helping a billion people save an hour-plus commuting time every day.”

Wild Toyota GR Yaris hot hatch will be cheaper than you think

Toyota Yaris GR price

A trip to Toyota’s forward-planning Kenshiki Forum was our first chance to get up close with the GR Yaris: the company’s exotic new hot hatch. With an all-new body and four-wheel drive, you’d be forgiven for worrying about how expensive the Yaris will be.

Thankfully, those in the know at Toyota reassured us otherwise.

At its reveal, it was anyone’s guess what the GR Yaris would cost. Predictions started at £40,000 and climbed from there – and for good reason. You could likely fit the body parts the GR shares with the normal Yaris in the boot of a Supra. The lights and badges are pretty much the only bits that carry over unchanged.

Toyota Yaris GR price

Everything else is bespoke – the three-door shell, bumpers, wheelarches, lower roofline and carbon roof. Underneath, the front is familiar Yaris, but at the back, to accommodate both the double-wishbone suspension and the rear driveshafts, it’s effectively a Corolla. 

The GR Yaris won’t be assembled in France alongside its standard siblings. Instead, it’ll be built, largely by hand, at the new GR Production Centre in Motomachi, Japan. A true modern JDM performance hero, and likely to cost plenty as a result?


Before being shuffled out of the room with a GR Yaris on display alongside a body-less chassis, we cornered Robert Tickner, general manager of communications at Toyota Motor Europe, to see if we could get a hint.

“I’d be remiss if I didn’t ask, is there any indication of how much the GR Yaris is going to cost?”

Tickner smiles, but remains coy: “We’re still developing the price point at the moment.”

Toyota Yaris GR price

I press him, citing some of the wild guesses circulating online. He laughs: “I don’t think it’ll be quite that much. If you look at the price in Japan, which was revealed to be around four million yen, that converts to roughly £27,000. It won’t be a million miles away from that.”

Truthfully, we were surprised. To look at the Yaris GR, you can’t help but wonder what astronomical costs went into its development – and indeed will go into its manufacture.

“I assume the profit margins will be tight, then?” I follow. “Assuming there is a profit,” Tickner quips.

Toyota Yaris GR price

It seems Toyota doesn’t want to price enthusiasts out of the car. When you consider that it will have 24,000 of them to sell worldwide, that seems sensible. Production isn’t limited, either: 24,000 is just how many they have to produce to homologate the rally car. If they all sell and there’s demand, production will continue.

It’s not unknown for boss Akio Toyoda to let his company take a hit for the sake of a passion project. Indeed, the Yaris GR is another one of his pet projects – not unlike the Lexus LFA supercar, also a loss-leader.

It’s a product of his love of rallying, a crack at a competitive edge for the 2021 WRC season, plus a true homologation special. 

Toyota Yaris GR price

The Yaris GR could be a lot of excitement for your money, then, once prices are announced. Our revised estimate starts with a three…

So when can we expect the actual price to be revealed? Toyota is on a clock with this. “We need to get pricing out and orders in, in time to deliver before the 2021 season,” Tickner says. “We’re looking at no later than May, really.”

2020 Toyota Mirai revealed – sexy first, fuel cell EV second

Toyota Mirai 2020 revealed

The hydrogen-powered Toyota Mirai was always a technological flagship, but its appearance left a lot to be desired. It was striking, for sure, but far short of appealing. As well as the advancements going on underneath, the 2020 Toyota Mirai has developed a swagger. We went to the Toyota Kenshiki Forum in Amsterdam for the reveal of the near-production version. Kenshiki means ‘insight’ or ‘creating understanding’. With that, we tried a bit of both with the second iteration of Toyota’s fascinating fuel cell flagship.

So why the sudden change? We don’t see the Prius turning into a BMW 4 Series Gran Coupe rival anytime soon. It’s because an image problem is the last thing a car trying to sell a concept needs. Indeed, Matt Harris, executive vice president of Toyota Motor Europe, describes the Mirai as Toyota’s vision of “the longer-term future of electrification”. The 10,000 Mirai units sold globally since 2015 doesn’t scream long-term. The Mirai needs to reach further. 

Toyota Mirai 2020 revealed

So the goal is to make a car that people desire and will enjoy driving. It wants the Mirai to be aspirational, rather than a statement of style martyrdom that the Prius and previous Mirai are so often described as. That it’s a Fuel Cell Electric Vehicle isn’t of consequence in this respect. In short, Toyota wants to do for FCEVs, what the Tesla Model S did for conventional EVs – make them desirable and therefore, impossible to ignore. A master-stroke by Toyota, given that the as yet unconfirmed price will inevitably remain steep. This looks much more like a £70,000 car than its predecessor.

“I want customers to say ‘I chose the Mirai not just because it’s an FCEV, but because I simply wanted this car; it just happens to be an FCEV,’“ says the Mirai’s chief engineer, Yoshikazu Tanaka.

Reshaping the Mirai – better looks, longer range and rear-wheel-driveToyota Mirai 2020 revealed

To the end of facilitating the Mirai’s reinvention, the right platform was needed. Under the skin is the new GA-L platform, which has been designed from the outset to take multiple powertrains, including hydrogen. It’s the largest within the Toyota New Global Architecture (TNGA) family, which will be familiar to those who have had a look under the skin of a Lexus LS. Could we see a luxurious hydrogen-powered Lexus at some point? “It’s entirely possible”, we were told.

The platform is the primary enabler of that arresting shape and facilitates more dynamic driving characteristics. In fact, being a close relation to a Lexus platform, the new Mirai is only the second of two Toyotas in the marque’s current lineup – alongside the Supra – to be rear-wheel-drive. While there were no allusions to Toyota’s FCEV cutting shapes and billowing smoke like a Mercedes-AMG, the new Mirai is said to have “a completely new character” in terms of its driving dynamics.

“We have pursued the goal of making a car that customers will feel they want to drive all the time,” Tanaka says of the car’s driving dynamics. 

“A car that has an emotional and attractive design and the kind of dynamic and responsive performance that can bring a smile to the driver’s face.”

Toyota Mirai 2020 revealed

The larger platform has also allowed for improving the hydrogen fuel cell powertrain underneath. It employs fourth-generation Toyota hybrid motor and battery technology, alongside its second-generation fuel cells, for which there are now three tanks. The new Mirai’s range should, says Toyota, exceed the first-generation car’s by 30 percent.

Estimates are around the 400-mile mark (650 kilometers), improving on the original’s circa 300-mile range. That’s further than any current or imminent EV, and it can be ‘filled’ in the time it takes to fuel up a petrol car.

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On the inside, it’s a tidy thing. You could almost slap a metallic ‘L’ on the wheel in place of the Toyota badge. The instrument panel wraps around the driver, and there’s an impressive crisp 12.3-inch central display. It’s not quite a Lexus LS, but it isn’t just a poshed-up Prius either.

Practically speaking, it’s a lot bigger. The layout of the new fuel cells means it can now seat five people, rather than the four that the previous car could manage. That said, headroom is a bit of a squeeze. The distance between those elegant 20-inch wheels is roughly 200mm less than a Lexus LS, but 140mm more than the outgoing first-generation car. It’s longer but lower – a proportional win afforded by that new platform.

Toyota Mirai – what’s the point?

Toyota Mirai 2020 revealed

It’s the burning question around this car that, as conventional battery EVs have proliferated, ought to have become more and more difficult to answer. On the contrary – Toyota’s team of executives and engineers at the Kenshiki forum repeatedly defended its case.

Andrea Carlucci, director of product planning and marketing at Toyota Motor Europe, told us that it’s the essential fourth prong in its electric vehicle offering. Toyota considers itself a leader in the field of automotive electrification, having popularised the hybrid and plug-in hybrid formula. Yet as wholesale electrification remains in its infancy, it wants to cover all basis, explore all technologies and balloon its offering of every kind of EV. It appreciates that certain standards of electrification aren’t affordable at all budget levels, and wants to have offerings along as much of the affordability spectrum as possible. 

Toyota Mirai 2020 revealed

Conventional hybrids – like the new Yaris hybrid – are affordable. They’re good for urban motorists. They’re an entry point into the world of electrification right now. Plug-ins – like the new RAV-4 PHEV – offer the flexibility of selectable EV motoring and a combustion engine alongside. Full battery-electric vehicles are good for regulated areas, like emission-controlled cities. Finally, cars like the Mirai are designed for those who are carbon-conscious but still want a large aspirational vehicle and have distances to cover.

Its relevance isn’t in its sales, though. Though Toyota expects to sell more this time around, the car’s transformation isn’t intended to turn it into a volume or profit margin darling. The Mirai is a statement by Toyota. It says that this is a company that isn’t chasing the bottom line. It’s a reminder of Toyota’s standing as a pioneer in alternative fuel vehicles. It’s Toyota’s stamp on the fringes of zero-emission technology. It’s Toyota’s flagship, and with this reinvention, no longer in technology alone.

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Toyota is making parts for the classic Supra again

Toyota GR Heritage reproducing Supra parts

News that Toyota plans to reproduce parts for the previous two generations of Supra will be music to the ears of owners. The marque follows Nissan and Mazda in announcing remanufactured parts support for classic models.

Specifically, parts will be reproduced for the A70 (1986-1993) and A80 (1993-2002) generations of Toyota Supra. These will be sold domestically and in overseas markets, including America and Europe.

Toyota also says the parts will be available to order and pick up from dealerships.

Which classic Supra parts can you buy?Toyota GR Heritage reproducing Supra parts

 

All parts will be going into production in 2020. The part numbers aren’t yet announced, but deliveries could begin next year.

The first batch will include door handles for both the A70 and A80. Propeller shafts, fuel sender gauges, weather strips and front emblems will be available for the A70. For the A80, headlamps and brake boosters will be joining the door handles initially.

If you’re worried that list isn’t exactly exhaustive, fear not. As an owner, you can fill in a form and request the parts you need. Don’t bet on Toyota going all the way and putting the 2JZ twin-turbo straight-six engine back into production, though.

Toyota GR Heritage reproducing Supra parts

‘Tell us about the spare parts you want to see reproduced,’ the Toyota Gazoo Racing website reads.

‘Let us know which parts you require to ensure your beloved vehicle can continue to run. Your feedback will motivate us in our efforts to produce the next batch of reissued parts.’

Toyota will be exhibiting GR Heritage Parts at the Tokyo Auto Salon in Makuhari Messe. You’ll be able to check them out for three days, from 10-12 January.

Toyota reveals plans to build its own city

Toyota's city of the future CES

The 2020 Consumer Electronics Show (CES) is underway, and now more than ever it’s where car companies go to show off technology, and technology companies go to show off cars. Toyota is going one better this year, proposing its plans for an entire city of the future.

Moreover, this isn’t just a concept. Toyota is going to build what it calls the ‘Woven City’ at the base of Mount Fuji in Japan.

The plan is for it to be a prototype for new cities. The 175-acre site will be a fully connected hydrogen-powered ecosystem, and a safe haven for the prototyping and testing of future technologies. Examples include autonomous mobility, robotics, smart homes, and artificial intelligence (AI).

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Toyota wants to move 2,000 people in initially. These will include Toyota employees, families, retirees, retailers, scientists and industry partners. They’ll be able to enjoy robots in their homes, AI to monitor their health and fully-autonomous zero-emissions transport. Tropes of traditional cities will follow, including parks and areas for people to gather socially.

“Building a complete city from the ground up, even on a small scale like this, is a unique opportunity to develop future technologies, including a digital operating system for the city’s infrastructure,” said Akio Toyoda, president of Toyota Motor Corporation.

Toyota's city of the future CES

“With people, buildings and vehicles all connected and communicating with each other through data and sensors, we will be able to test connected AI technology… in both the virtual and the physical realms… maximising its potential.”

“We welcome all those inspired to improve the way we live in the future, to take advantage of this unique research ecosystem and join us in our quest to create an ever-better way of life and mobility for all.”

The city is being designed by Danish architect Bjarke Ingels. His previous efforts include Google’s Mountain View and London headquarters locations, as well as Lego House in Denmark. Toyota expects ground to be broken for the ‘Woven City’ in 2021.

2020 Toyota race at Silverstone is open to all

Toyota Parallel Pomeroy Trophy

Entries are now open for the 2020 Toyota Parallel Pomeroy Trophy at Silverstone.

Toyotas of all shapes, sizes and ages are invited to attend to the event. Everyone has a chance of driving home in a blaze of glory.

In theory, an ageing Avensis or Camry could upstage a Supra or GT86. Rising Starlets should form an orderly queue…

Entrants must complete the same series of driving tests, but the results are calculated taking factors such as the car’s age and engine size into account.

As a result, a Toyota iQ scooped the Parallel Pomeroy Trophy in 2019. The tiny city car finished ahead of a Toyota Celica GT-Four and a Yaris GRMN in second and third place.

All cars must be road-legal, while all participants must hold a valid UK driving licence. Entries cost £30, with proceeds donated to Guide Dogs for the Blind.

‘There’s no other manufacturer event like it’

Toyota Parallel Pomeroy Trophy 2020

Scott Brownlee, head of press and social at Toyota GB, said: “Last year’s event proved a hugely popular success, with all kinds of Toyotas in action.

“This year we’re ready to welcome even more owners to join in the fun and celebrate the amazing variety of Toyota models from across the years. There’s no other manufacturer event like it and we’re keen to see as many cars as possible taking part.”

Next year’s event will take place on 15 February 2020 at the Silverstone circuit in Northampton. In addition to the competition, drivers will be invited to take to the circuit in a special parade lap.

More information, event regulations and downloadable entry forms can be found on the Vintage Sports Car Club (VSCC) website.

Toyota connects windscreen wipers to weather channel

Connected windscreen wipers

Your car’s windscreen wipers could soon be used to deliver more accurate weather forecasts.

Using data from connected cars, meteorologists could pinpoint localised weather conditions, helping to create a broader picture across the entire country.

This could be used to warn drivers of hazardous conditions and to enable weather-related speed restrictions to improve road safety.

In Japan, a project between Toyota and Weathernews involves the monitoring of windscreen wipers used in connected cars.

“It’s a brilliantly simple idea,” claims Toyota. Drivers activate their wipers in response to rain, and the speed of the wipe tends to correspond with the severity of the downpour.

A couple of cars using their wipers could be a case of screen washing. If numerous people activate their wipers, the reason is likely to be meteorological.

Toyota windscreen wiper

Toyota says standard rain cloud radar systems cannot always detect light showers, so its connected vehicles have the potential to identify weather that might otherwise go undetected.

Working in conjunction with the existing Weathernews observation network, which is spread across 13,000 locations, the connected wipers add another layer of information.

Used correctly, this data could reduce accidents and prepare drivers for deteriorating conditions. In Japan, there are four times as many motorway accidents in the rain as there are on sunny days.

The connected wipers can also communicate in other ways. Nearly all Toyota passenger cars launched since 2018 are equipped with an on-board data communication module.

Using Car2Car technology, cars can warn other cars about weather and hazardous driving conditions.

Say, for example, a number of cars detect ice on a bend. This information can be relayed to the cars approaching the corner, preparing the driver for danger.

Similarly, if a number of connected cars are queuing in traffic, the data can be used to divert other motorists away from the congestion.

Smart windscreen wipers won’t be able to improve the weather, but they might tell you when you need to pack an umbrella.

Sporty spice: Toyota Supra Wasabi teases the ‘ideal’ modified Supra

Toyota Supra Wasabi Concept

If, on the reveal of the new Toyota Supra, your thoughts were “close, but not hardcore enough”, well, Toyota might soon have you covered. Though not a market offering, Toyota is teasing faster Supras, the latest being with the GR Supra Wasabi Concept.

As you might expect from a car called Wasabi, it comes presented in a lurid green paint job. The new aero package has a very OEM look, but adds a level of aggression, particularly at the front splitter. The idea is that it’s a ‘vision of how the new GR Supra could adopt sanctioned, aftermarket products to enhance performance, without compromising its personality or functionality’. It’s one of many spiced-up Supras shown at this year’s SEMA show.

Toyota Supra Wasabi Concept

The wing and central twin-exit exhausts have a very ‘GT3’ feel. While that deletes the ‘afterburner’ style reversing light, they should improve exhaust flow. The wheels are new, with forged dual six-spoke items adding an aftermarket feel.

It sits lower on them, too. Ohlins Road & Track coilovers help those wheels fill the arches, and add track performance. They’re adjustable for height, compression and rebound. Behind the wheels is a new Brembo brake kit, adding six-pot calipers and massive 4-5mm discs up front.

Under the bonnet, although you won’t find aggressive upgrades to the engine itself, you will find a brace over it, between the front struts.

‘Public response carefully analysed, for the development of future products…’Toyota Supra Wasabi Concept

SEMA, of all car shows, is where you go to have a bit of fun. While this ‘Wasabi’ Supra is just that, it also serves an important purpose for the future, as do the other more extreme show cars.

Toyota will be watching very carefully to see how people react to its modified Supras. It wants feedback to help see where the Supra should go next. Whether that be a generic high-performance version, or a more skunkworks-esque ‘factory tuned’ route. It also wants customers to know that the Supra is tuner-friendly, and built with a buyer’s aftermarket creativity in mind.

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The Toyota Corolla will be hybrid-only from 2020

Toyota Corolla hybrid 2020

The new British-built Toyota Corolla range will be entirely hybrid from 2020. The 1.2-litre turbocharged engine is being discontinued, while the improved 1.8-litre and 2.0-litre petrol-electric hybrids remain.

Toyota Corolla hybrid 2020

New too for the Corolla range are the GR Sport and TREK specifications. The former is, as you might expect, a sporty trim level adding exterior aggression. Larger wheels and sharper styling on the outside are complemented by sporty seats and trim on the inside.

The Touring Sports TREK is a curious trim, with the marque partnering with the well-known bicycle manufacturer. It has an ‘SUV-influenced’ look, which should go down well with adventure types into their mountain biking. That means a 20mm raised ride height to match other rugged styling add-ons.

Toyota Corolla hybrid 2020

In the cabin, there are TREK-branded scuff plates and even wood trim to keep with the out-doorsy feel. Thrown in with the TREK on top of the ‘Design’ equipment level is an electric tailgate with a kick system. Useful if your arms are fully of muddy bikes.

Finally, tech-savvy buyers will be pleased to note that all Corollas from 2020 will come with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto integration as standard.

Would you pay £385,000 for a 20-year-old Toyota Supra?

Toyota Supra £385,000

The new Toyota Supra has been out long enough that even the BMW jokes in the YouTube comments have died down a bit. Still the question of whether it’s a worthy successor to the much-loved Mk4 burns on.

Regardless, you could find yourself paying a lot more for a 20 year-old example in showroom condition than a new one. This one in America is up for the equivalent of £385,000.

That means this A80 is around six-and-a-half times the price of a brand new A90 Supra. For that, you could have a Ferrari 812 Superfast and a decent amount of change. So what makes this Supra so special?

Toyota Supra £385,000

Well, according to the dealer that’s selling it, the car’s originality and colour help support its price. Originality isn’t ‘£385,000’ difficult, but it does have VIN-matching panels all round.

And the colour? Supposedly, just 24 Supra Turbos came in this smokey shade of silver, called ‘Quicksilver’, and it’s been verified as the original paint.

Also adding to that rareness and desirability is the fact that it has the golden combination to Supra fans: a manual gearbox, turbocharged engine and T-top roof. 

Toyota Supra £385,000

What isn’t very ‘£385,000’ – yes, we keep saying it – is the fact that it’s done 37,000 miles. Yes, that’s low, but it’s no garage queen with dust on the valve stems and mileage in single figures. This thing has seen use.

Then we swing back to that originality question, because for this money, it has to be pixel perfect, and this Supra technically isn’t. Its lip at the front has been finished in Quicksilver, as has the valve cover. Tasteful, but not original spec.

So is it worth the money? To the right buyer, perhaps. Should that buyer expect a return on his or her investment? That we are considerably less sure on.