appears to be
Special to the
Thursday, April 16,
the recent good news that Toyota will nearly double the proposed
workforce to some 2,200 workers prior to the first vehicle
rolling off the assembly line, the company seems to be rolling
up its sleeves to take on all comers in an effort to become the
largest motor vehicle company in the world.
technological innovation to pave the way for future prosperity,
company officials in Japan and the United States seem to believe
that reducing auto air emissions may be just as important to
prosperity as the bottom line.
A few months back,
the ink upon the Kyoto global warming agreement was not yet dry
before the company announced that it would be accelerating
efforts to reduce harmful engine emissions from the motor fleet
it produces for Japanese consumption.
articles in the Japanese news agency Nihon Keizai Shimbun and
the Reuters News Service, Toyota officials state that all new
vehicles produced for Japanese consumption this year will be
outfitted with the company's independently developed emissions
The new engine --
tagged the D-4 direct injection system -- is a gasoline engine
format which substantially reduces emissions of greenhouse
The Japanese News
Agency explains that the new emission system system reduces
nitrous oxides and carbon monoxide emissions by adjusting the
operation of the car's catalytic converter.
The adjustments are
based upon monitoring the oxygen content available for
combustion inside the engine and then checking fuel status which
sensors placed both in front of and behind the exhaust catalyst.
The data is then sent to a computer which adjusts the timing of
the fuel injection system to achieve the highest possible
Similar systems are
also being produced in Japan for some vehicles sold by Nissan
and Mitsubishi but are not yet on the market.
A Toyota spokesman
told Reuters that the decision will result in a significant
boost in the company's output of such power units for 4,000 to
5,000 vehicles per month.
During the last
calendar year, only about 1,800 of the vehicles were sold in the
Japanese market. This news came in the wake of the
enormous international attention given to Toyota's October
announcement of the Prius, a combination gasoline/electric car
in Japan which the company plans to bring to the United States
in limited numbers within the next six months.
The company is also
apparently toying with hydrogen power fuel cells -- "far
future" technology, according to Toyota engineers -- for release
about 10 years from now.
When precisely the
company will begin to market the D-4 powered vehicles in the
United States is anybody's guess, but political pressure on all
U.S. automakers to reduce exhaust emissions is apparently
Both Ford and
General Motors are trying to persuade Northeastern states not to
adopt zero-emissions vehicle standards as have been established
They are also quite
concerned about pending Senate ratification of the Kyoto global
warming agreement, which would also mean stricter
fuel-efficiency standards for all U.S. automakers.
While all of these
developments are interesting, the U.S. buying public is sending
the auto industry decidedly different signals.
Associated Press reported that Americans are buying
sport-utility vehicles and light-duty trucks and are neglecting
small, more energy efficient automobiles
The report stated
that sales of General Motor's Saturn cars were down 10 per cent
last year and that the Chevrolet Prizm and Metro models were
down 23 per cent and 39 per cent, respectively, for the
The news service
quotes G., Richard Wagoner, Jr., president of GM's North
American operations as saying the economy segment of the market
"has been basically wiped out."
At the same time,
Wards's auto reports said that sales of sport-utility vehicles
were up 6 per cent during the last year and that small and
medium-priced cars were down 5 per cent across the board.
transpires, with the Kyoto agreement, Toyota, as a corporate
entity, seems to be raising the bar as far as improving fleet
emissions standards and other technological innovations.
The company's outstanding sales performance provides the company
with working capital to develop new
It is clear from the recent announcements that, regardless of
current market trends, when U.S. auto consumers are ready
for advanced- technology vehicles, Toyota plans to be there with
the new products to meet the demand.
Coker is an Evansville free-lance writer.