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Re: E-M:/ In defense of the Prius!

Bill makes some good points.  Here's one recent Detroit News story that attempts to provide some "balance" about Toyota compared to the Big 3.  I would just note that the legacy cost differences may have more to do with government policy than unionization.  Japan has national health insurance (like most other industrialized nations), while the U.S. relies on the private sector to cover those costs.  The domestic auto companies are now carrying health care and pension costs for more than a million retirees while international companies like Toyota are largely free of such costs.  For background on policy solutions to this problem, check out:  http://www.greenmachinestour.org/

Charles G.


The bottom line today is that Toyota is beating GM because it is less unionized. Union health and pension obligations alone cost GM at least $1,500 more per car than nonunion Toyota, estimates Edmunds.com senior analyst Jesse Toprak.
A case in point is GM's Chevy Suburban SUV. Made in Arlington, Texas, it is rated the most efficiently produced SUV in America, according to Harbour Consulting in Troy.
But in nearby San Antonio, Toyota will start rolling out big, profitable Toyota Tundra pickups this year -- at half the wages of Suburban workers and with no union legacy costs (compared with $1,800 per vehicle for the Suburban, according to the Wall Street Journal).
That, says Toprak, means $1,800 more per vehicle that Toyota can then "channel back into research and development for hybrid technologies. And make more products faster. And react more quickly to market trends." In short, make a better product.
As the U.S. market has changed -- demanding roomy SUVs -- Toyota has changed with it. And that is precisely why Toyota has such a large market cap -- because it makes what customers need better than anyone.

Enviro-Mich message from "William Tobler" <williamtobler@critterswoods.org>

I am glad that you like your Prius.  If you bought it new last year, then it should be a Prius II (second generation).  Significantly improved over the first Prius, at least from what I've read and heard other engineers say. Despite what I said yesterday, I think the Prius is a pretty good car for the right customer.  However, it is not for everyone.

What I was slamming is the unbalanced reporting and claims that are reported so commonly today.  Originally, I never heard anything bad about Prius. Everybody apparently loved them.  Wonderful, wonderful, flawless cars. Hooray, Toyota.  What's the matter with Detroit?   Then one morning a couple of years ago, I heard something on car talk radio show in the morning, about some of the real and extensive issues that consumers were having with Prius. Things like "losing control when you slam on the brakes".    I knew something first hand about one of these technical issues, since I was working on understanding and resolving the apparently identical problem on another car product.  So, I did some web research, and was astonished at what I found.  Not a word about it in the press.  Toyota has an impeccable image.

By the way, on our engineering team was an engineer from Aisin (Aisin supplies the transmission and hybrid parts for Toyota, and also supplies Ford).  A real bright guy.  Our team figured out what was happening in our prototypes and fixed the problem.  But the problem was sold in Toyota Prius for years, whereas Ford would never accept such poor behavior.  You can bet that our understanding and fix quickly made its way back to Toyota.

My first car was a 65 Mustang.  I drove it for over 200,000 miles over 17 years.  That's when Ford was nicknamed "Fix Or Repair Daily".  I drove Escorts from about 1983 until they were discontinued.  Got great gas mileage.  Great, practical, well built car.  It pushed my buttons in all of the right way, and I was a happy, satisfied customer.  The only mechanical problem I had in all of those years was a bolt in the shifting linkage dropped out one year.  A quick, easy repair.

This week Toyota announced a recall due to engine oil leaks for 418,000 units including Prius.  The second large recall this month for Toyota.
Last year, Toyota had the largest recall in Japanese history.  And more worrisome, Toyota is being "reprimanded" by the Japanese government for shirking recalls and covering up for eight years, and refusing to fix defects that may cause accidents and death.  Have you heard about all of this?

Sure, all motor companies have problems.  Toyota has them.  The "big" three have them.  What I want is even, fair reporting.
I have been an Enviromich watcher/poster for a long time.  I don't remember any motor company other than Ford ever being mentioned by name, and always as evil.

Ford currently has about 15% market share.  I am not a supporter of the E85 decision, however it is an alternative fuel that is being promoted by the current administration and both political parties.  Regardless, the other 85% of the market will make different decisions, so what Ford does or does not do is not necessarily going to change the world energy problem one way or the other.

On the other hand, Toyota is by far the most profitable automobile company today.  So if any company should be "blamed" for the current situation, it should be Toyota for not using their resources to address the issues, instead of concentrating on building bigger and much bigger cars and trucks.

I do work for Ford Motor, and I have stock in Ford Motor.

----- Original Message ----- From: "Ann Zinn" <annczinn@umich.edu>
Sent: Saturday, July 22, 2006 9:38 PM
Subject: E-M:/ In defense of the Prius!

Enviro-Mich message from Ann Zinn <annczinn@umich.edu>

We have had a Toyota Prius for more than a year.  No problems.  Love it!
Getting more than 50 miles to the gallon in combined highway and in-town driving.
Drove over 24,000 miles last year.
The accelleration on the highway is amazing.  In slow and stopped traffic, the
battery takes over, and it emits no exhaust fumes (and makes no noise.) It's performed
extremely well in scary situations driving in the insanity of US23.
It's a hatchback with folding seats, so it carries about the same as a small stationwagon.

It's wonderful!

And I don't work for or have stock in Toyota.

A.  :-)

Charles Griffith, Auto Project Director
Ecology Center                                               
117 N. Division, Ann Arbor, MI  48104
Ph: 734/663-2400, x116  /-2414  fx.