Toyota U-Squared Concept is the Perfect Urban Adventure Vehicle

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If you live in the city, but love to go on adventures and explore the wide world, finding a vehicle that will work for both situations can be difficult. Until now, that is. Take a look at Toyota’s U-squared concept. This incredibly flexible Toyota vehicle is inspired by urban dwellers who love to do their own thing, whether that is being an urban homesteader, brewing their own beer, or making their own soap.

The U-squared made its debut during a panel discussion in San Francisco hosted by the magazine Make. It will then make its public debut on September 20 at the World Maker Faire in New York City.

With the exception of the checkerboard design, the exterior of the U-squared isn’t remarkably different from any other panel van, but it’s the inside that really counts.

The U-squared has an entirely flexible interior that can change from seating for four down to just the driver’s seat. Carrying a tall load? Just roll back the roof to make room. If you’re loading something heavy with wheels, simply lower the rear hatch and it turns into a loading ramp.

Designed by Toyota’s Calty Design Research center in California, they had makers in mind when creating this unique vehicle. “Toyota saw an opportunity for a new approach to an urban vehicle based on increasing re-urbanization of our cities and urban drivers’ desire for flexibility, fun and maneuverability,” said Kevin Hunter, president of Calty, in a statement.

Will you be making the drive down to New York to see check out the U-squared at the Maker Faire? Let us know in the comments!

Toyota’s Future Safety Technology Keeps Drivers at the Wheel

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You may imagine a future where your car drives itself to work and you can kick back and enjoy a cup of coffee while you catch up on the morning news. While this may happen eventually, Toyota says its future safety technology will still require a driver in control at the steering wheel.

On September 4, Toyota said it will have collision-prevention technology as part of its complete U.S. lineup by 2017. These systems will allow cars to steer themselves to stay in the center of a highway lane and will be able to detect if the drivers eyes leave the road or hands come off the steering wheel and then issue a warning.

Ken Koibunchi, general manager of Toyota’s intelligent vehicle division described the system as a “full-time back-seat driver,” in a statement.

Toyota executives went on to say that they do not see a future where humans won’t have a critical position behind the wheel. Seigo Kuzumaki, the company’s deputy chief safety technology offer added, “Toyota will not be developing a driverless car.”

It’s interesting to see that while Google and other automakers are pushing for driverless technologies, Toyota is keeping humans in the mix. This reminds us of Toyota’s manufacturing move earlier this year where it actually replaced some of its assembly line robots with real people, insisting that the human touch was necessary for the best production.

What do you think? Will our future ever include driverless vehicles or will we forever be stuck behind the steering wheel?

New Toyota Ann Arbor Facility Adds Jobs

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Toyota already has a strong presence in Michigan with its Toyota Technical Center. Now, however it is working on a new Toyota Ann Arbor facility that will bring in 250 new employees. This new addition represents a $32.5 million investment from Toyota.

“The Toyota Technical Center has been the driving force behind our engineering and R&D activities in North America for more than 35 years, so I am pleased and proud that we will continue to grow these operations, said Osamu Nagata, President and CEO of Toyota Motor Engineering and Manufacturing North America, in a statement. “We look forward to strengthening our ties with Michigan even further and making continued investments that will help drive the success of Toyota, our supplier partners, and the state for many years to come.”

This expansion is part of Toyota’s ongoing efforts to consolidate its North American operations, including moving its U.S. headquarters to Plano, Texas. The Toyota Technical Center was the only U.S. location spared from the consolidation move to Texas.

Here at Empire Toyota, we are excited by the changes Toyota is making and look forward to many exciting, new models in the future.

Toyota FT-1 Concept Gets a Luxurious Boost at Pebble Beach

This January, Toyota impressed the world with its stunning, dynamic FT-1 Concept. It had a sporty look with bright red paint and a two-tone red and black interior. At the recent Pebble Beach Concours d’Elegance, the Toyota FT-1 Concept got a bit of a luxurious treatment.

The concept was on display with a dramatic, shiny graphite exterior and a luxurious tan leather interior with exposed metal highlights.

“From the start of the FT-1 project, we wanted the driver to have a feeling of flow while at the wheel, to be able to focus on the road and nothing else,” said Sellene Lee, a creative designer at Toyota’s Newport Beach Calty design studio, in a statement. “Our aim was to ensure everything supported the driver through efficient choices. The saddle leather maintains that same ‘in-the-zone’ driving intention, while bringing in a more premium feeling.”

With the release of this sophisticated concept, it fuels more speculation about whether or not Toyota is bringing this beauty to production.

Which Toyota FT-1 Concept design do you prefer?

Toyota Is Helping Detroit with $1 Million Donation

Toyota is helping Detroit Institute of ArtToyota may call Japan home, but it still has a soft spot for Detroit. We all feel the pain that Detroit is going through right now as it faces bankruptcy. Toyota is helping Detroit with a $1 million donation for the Detroit Institute of Arts (DIA).

This donation is part of a “grand bargain” where the DIA has committed to raise $100 million to help support the city’s pensioners and protect the museum’s valuable art collection for the public.

“Detroit and the surrounding areas are vitally important to the automotive community. They
deserve our support,” said Simon Nagata, president of Toyota Motor Engineering and Manufacturing, Inc, in a statement.  “Together we can find solutions to help Detroit become the healthy and vibrant community that reflects the spirit of its people. This commitment is a way to demonstrate our gratitude to the people who have built this industry and support us every day.”

Along with the DIA’s $100 million commitment, other contributors in the “grand bargain,” including local and national organizations, and the state of Michigan, will help provide more than $800 million to support the city’s pensioners for 20 years.

Here at Empire Toyota, we are proud to see Toyota play such a big role in helping to restore Detroit’s future.

Toyota Sets Global Sales Record for First Half of the Year

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Toyota just set a global sales record by selling 5.1 million vehicles in the first half of 2014. This was a 3.8 percent jump over last year’s sales and was strong enough for Toyota to keep the crown as the worldwide automotive sales leader.

Outside its home market of Japan, sales reached 3.7 million, a 3.0 percent gain. Helping those numbers were strong SUV sales here in the U.S. for the Toyota Highlander, RAV4, and the Lexus SUV models (Toyota’s luxury brand). Toyota also noted that production outside of Japan, including here in North America, hit a record high for 2014—increasing 3.8 percent.

Toyota may have kept its sales crown, but not by much. Volkswagen is close on its heels and was only outsold by 200,000 cars during the first six months of the year. Want to help Toyota keep its lead? Come check out the exciting Toyota lineup available now at Empire Toyota. We’ll help you find the perfect vehicle to fit your lifestyle needs.

2015 Toyota Yaris Styling Goes European

In a few years, the Toyota Yaris will get completely updated, but until then, Toyota is keeping the 2015 Toyota Yaris styling fresh by adding “a distinct European flavor.” It gets a new front fascia and an updated interior designed for better comfort.

Outside, a large black grille is the main focus on the front end with chrome trim on the upper grille. Also, new alloy wheel designs keep the exterior fresh.

Toyota promises a more comfortable interior with redesigned seats and more soft-touch finishes. The interior will also be a bit quieter with additional sound insulation.

The ride quality will also be improved with a retuned suspension and a more rigid body structure. The engine choice will remain the same for 2015—a 1.5-liter, four-cylinder with variable valve timing. It is rated at 106 horsepower, 103 lb-ft of torque, and gets an EPA-estimated fuel efficiency rating of 33 mpg combined when equipped with the manual transmission.

The 2015 Toyota Yaris will be coming to Empire Toyota soon. It will have a starting pricing of $14,845.

Toyota Opens Applications for 2014 Fellowship and Innovation Grants

2014 Fellowship and Innovation grantsToyota, together with the National Audubon Society, is now accepting applications for the 2014 Fellowship and Innovation Grants, called Toyota TogetherGreen. These grants will support projects that promote sustainable and innovative solutions in environmental and leadership areas.

20 individuals who are seeking to improve their communities and increase their leadership skills will be awarded with TogetherGreen fellowships. Each fellowship includes a $10,000 grant to carry out the intended project.

In addition, 20 innovation grants will be given out to stand-out conservation projects that focus on underrepresented communities in the U.S and will work to improve habitat, water, and energy preservation.

Since 2008, TogetherGreen has supported 246 projects with nearly $6.7 in grant money to protect and preserve land, water, and energy resources across the United States.

Interested parties can apply for the fellowships and grants online. The deadline to apply is 9 pm EST on Friday, August 15, 2014.

Do you know of any worthy conversation projects in the Oneonta, New York area? If so, be sure to point them in the right direction and have them apply for the TogetherGreen grants.

2015 Toyota Sienna Makes Talking to Your Kids Easier

2015 Toyota SiennaWhen it comes to transporting your ever-growing family, you don’t want something that will just get you from point A to point B—you want something that will get you there safely and with a little bit of style, too. This is what makes the 2015 Toyota Sienna the perfect family vehicle.

With the refreshed version of the Sienna, Toyota kept its swagger and added so much more. On the outside, the Sienna gets a very minor update with a dark mesh grille and trim, slightly reshaped headlights, and available LED running lights.

As for the inside, that’s where it really counts. Toyota added two options that parents will love. The first is something called Driver Easy Speak, which uses a built-in microphone to project the driver’s voice into the back seat speakers. You know how hard it is to talk to passengers just in the row behind you, so imagine how much voice strain this simple solution will save. The second parent-friendly option is a pull-down mirror so drivers can check out what’s going on behind them.

What to get your swagger on? The 2015 Toyota Sienna will be coming to Empire Toyota later this year!

Want an American-Made Car? Get a Toyota.

Toyota PriusWhen you think about American car brands, you probably think of Ford, Dodge, and Chevrolet. But, did you know that the most American-made car is actually a Toyota?

According to Cars.com’s American-Made Index, four of the top ten most American-made vehicles come from Toyota. The Toyota Camry comes in at number two, just behind the Ford F-150. Toyota also claims numbers four, five, and six, with the Sienna, Tundra, and Avalon, respectively.

To land a spot on this list, vehicles have to, of course, be assembled here in the U.S. They also have to have a domestic-parts content of at least 75 percent, not be scheduled for discontinuance, and have strong U.S. sales. Cars.com noted that for this year’s list, there were only ten models that made the cut. It said 13 cars met the parts content threshold, but three of those won’t be on the market next year. This was the lowest number of cars eligible for the list, “the fewest in the study’s nine-year history.”

If having an American-made car is important to you, consider checking out the all-American lineup available now at Empire Toyota.