Toyota, GM, Ford; EVs, AVs and ADAS

By Gary S. Vasilash

Last week Norihiko Shirouzu of Reuters reported “Toyota is considering a reboot of its electric-car strategy to better compete in a booming market it has been slow to enter.”

Toyota’s Prius is synonymous with “hybrid.” The company has pretty much hybridized everything. It argues—or maybe that would be “argued”—that it is better to build a whole bunch of affordable hybrids than a comparatively few electric vehicles that are comparatively more expensive: according to Kelley Blue Book, the average price of an electric vehicle in the U.S. in September was $65,291. The average transaction price for vehicles overall, KBB calculated, was $48,094. Which is roughly a 27% delta, which is certainly non-trivial.

Yes, this is a Prius. (Image: Toyota)

Be that as it may, Shirouzu’s sources indicated that “Toyota’s planning had assumed demand for EVs would not take off for several decades.” Which is decidedly not the case.

So is Toyota making a pivot? That is one of the subjects discussed on this edition of “Autoline After Hours.” Joining “Autoline’s” John McElroy and me are automotive consultant/analyst Jack Keebler and long-time auto journalist, currently freelancing at Autoweek, Todd Lassa.

Other topics discussed are the Q3 earnings of both General Motors and Ford, as well as those companies positions on autonomous driving: GM continues to be bullish on the prospects for Cruise, still anticipating revenue of $1-billion from the operation by 2025; Ford is far more conservative, as it announced that Argo AI, the AV company that was owned primarily by it and Volkswagen (each had 39%), was closing. Ford going forward would focus more on Level 2+ and Level 3 ADAS. (Ford CEO Jim Farley: “It’s mission-critical for Ford to develop great and differentiated L2+ and L3 applications that at the same time make transportation even safer.”)

The conversation is wide ranging and lively. And you can see it here.

Toyota’s Big Spend in West Virginia

Last November Toyota announced a $240-million investment in its plant in Buffalo, West Virginia, its only combined engine and transmission plant in North America. The monies will be invested in a production line for hybrid transaxles.

And today the company announced that it was adding an additional $73-million to its spend for not only more hybrid transaxle production but to assembly rear motor stators.

All of which is to say that Toyota is amping up its spend on hybrid vehicle production capacity.

In addition, it is spending $17 million at its Toyota Motor Manufacturing Tennessee plant for casting hybrid transaxle cases and housings.

Last December Toyota announced that it would be launching 30 battery electric vehicles globally by 2030, which would represent sales of 3.5-million EVs per year.

Then it would, by 2035, have 100% of its global vehicle sales be EVs by 2035.

However, between now and then there will evidently be more hybrids available at Toyota and Lexus dealers in the U.S.

Designing the 2022 Ford Maverick–& About Electric Pickups

A wide-ranging discussion that’s concentrated on pickups

By Gary S. Vasilash

Although “essential courage” may sound a bit exaggerated when it comes to the design theme for a vehicle, Scott Anderson, design manager at Ford, explains how that term describes what the team did in developing the design of the 2022 Ford Maverick—the interior design, in particular.

The Maverick is a compact truck. Unibody, not body-on-frame, like its sibs, the Ranger and the F-150.

While those two vehicles are designed and engineered primarily for those who are focused on, primarily, vocational uses (OK: there are plenty of people who buy pickups and never use the beds for anything beyond groceries or Christmas trees), the Maverick is designed and engineered mainly for urban dwellers who like to do recreational things (the Maverick can tow 4,000 pounds: like a small trailer) and whose recreation may include making things, not only with sheet metal and 2x4s, but also 3D printers.

It is a different proposition.

One of the things to know about the Maverick is that in the base model, which has a starting MSRP of $19,995, has a hybrid powertrain.

And as has long been the argument by some OEMs that have not gone the hybrid route, the nature of that, which combines an internal combustion engine (in this case a 162-hp 2.5-liter four) and an electric motor and battery (all in for the Maverick: 191 hp), hybrid powertrains are more expensive than, say, a 162-hp 2.5-liter four all by itself.

But the base Maverick is a hybrid and the base Maverick starts at under $20K.

And because it is a truck and because Ford has a lot riding on its reputation of building trucks (i.e., “Built Ford Tough”), there could be no skimping on the engineering of the Maverick.

So no surprise they had to do some things differently on developing and executing the interior.

Functional design and clever use of materials in the ’22 Ford Maverick. (Image: Ford)

For one thing, Anderson says, they decided that they would be honest about the use of plastic. They wouldn’t make it appear as though the material is something that it isn’t—but at the same time, they made it appear, through color and texture choice, as something both interesting and fit-for-purpose.

In addition, they did lots of observation about how people use their interiors, including storing objects of various sizes and configurations and so make the means to accommodate them, even if it meant things, as in the case of the front arm rests, are not what is typical: the front arm rests are truncated so as to make it more convenient to have large water bottles in the map pocket below.

So there is the essential part. And the guts, because when you decide that fasteners, for example, are going to be part of the design, not something hidden (often in a half-assed manner), then you’ve got to stand up for it.

Anderson talks about all this and more on this edition of “Autoline After Hours” with Rain Noe of Core77, freelance writer Mark Williams and me.

In addition, Noe, Williams and I discuss the coming onslaught of electric trucks, including the F-150 Lightning, the Rivian R1T, the HUMMER EV pickup, the Bollinger B2, the Silverado electric, the Tesla Cybertruck, and the Lordstown Endurance.

And you can see the show here.

The Flying Spur Hybrid Launched

Not exactly what you might think vis-à-vis a fuel-efficient vehicle

By Gary S. Vasilash

The Bentley Flying Spur is an imposing, stately sedan that is meant to go fast, thus its name.

The car is 209 inches long, 87 inches wide (mirror to mirror), 58 inches high, and when equipped with a V8 weighs 5,137 pounds. Large, solid and powerful.

It has a top speed of 198 mph.

The car has also been offered with a W12 engine (think of two V’s).

And now there is another variant, the Flying Spur Hybrid.

Yes, you can plug it in to charge the 14.1 kWh lithium-ion battery. (Image: Bentley)

It is part of Bentley’s “journey to electrification.”

The hybrid powertrain is based on a 2.9-liter V6 gasoline engine with an electric motor fitted between the engine and the transmission.

The turbocharged V6 engine produces 416 hp. The electric motor produces 134 hp. The system output is 543 hp.

While the V8 has more horsepower overall—549.5 hp—when looked at from a per liter metric, the Hybrid generates 152 hp per liter, more than the V8.

However, the V8’s 198 mph top speed bests the Hybrid, which is poking along at 177 mph.

What’s more, the V8 can go from 0 to 60 more quickly—in 4.0 seconds. 0.1 faster than the Hybrid.

When you get back to the point that these vehicles weigh more than two tons, even 4.1 seconds seems nearly impossible—especially for what the company describes as “the most efficient Bentley ever.”