Toyota debuted its new all-electric SUV concept car on Monday at the 2021 Shanghai Auto Show.
The Toyota bZ4X is the first electric car under the company’s new Beyond Zero (bZ) lineup of cars with zero carbon emissions. It is the first of 15 fully electric cars the company plans to make by 2025 and one of seven under the bZ badge, according to a statement from CTO Masahiko Maeda.
The car is a compact SUV that looks similar to Toyota’s RAV4, but rides lower to the ground and features a longer wheelbase.
It’s the first car to be built on Toyota’s new electric e-TNGA BEV platform that the company created jointly with Subaru. Subaru is expected to unveil its own electric car on the platform shortly.
The new car has several distinctive features, including a system that can use solar power to alleviate the impact of cold weather on the vehicle’s range, as well as yoke instead of a typical steering wheel. The car’s interior also has a large touchscreen.
The car company plans to manufacture the car in Japan and China. It should be available globally by the middle of 2022, according to the company.
Toyota has not announced how far the car will be able to travel on a full charge, but it will likely be competitive with other EVs on the market, including the Ford Mustang Mach-E which has a range of over 300 miles.
Toyota also did not attach a price estimate to the car, but CarandDriver.com reported the vehicle may sell for about $40,000 – a similar price to Toyota’s RAV4 hybrid.
Ford has become the first automobile company to shift towards remote working on a permanent basis, according to CNBC, with around 86,000 employees being allowed to work at least partially from home.
The policy is aimed at office workers rather than factory workers, who number around 100,000 and have largely returned to work.
Hybrid work plans and remote working will depend on individual and managerial responsibilities.
“The nature of the work we do really is going to be a guiding element,” chief people and employee experiences officer Kiersten Robinson told CNBC. “If there’s one thing we’ve learned over the last 12 months, it is that a lot of our assumptions around work and what employees need has shifted.”
Ford’s new policy will be introduced in July when most employees are expected to make at least a partial return to the office after more than a year.
“The nature of work drives whether or not you can adopt this model. There are certain jobs that are place-dependent – you need to be in the physical space to do the job,” chairman and chief executive of Ford Land, David Dubensky, told The Washington Post.
“Having the flexibility to choose how you work is pretty powerful,” Dubensky added. “It’s up to the employee to have dialogue and discussion with their people leader to determine what works best.”
According to a survey conducted at Ford in June 2020, 95% of employees wanted a hybrid form of working and a number of them felt more productive at home.
The move from Ford comes after major companies including Google, Spotify, and Salesforce all announced that they were offering their employees the option to work from home permanently.
“These companies are all looking at each other,” associate professor at Michigan State University’s School of Human Resources and Labor Relations, Angela Hall, told The Detroit News. “And especially someone like Ford, who is a large, respected employer – people are going to model that behavior.”
The Washington Post also reported that General Motors and Toyota were looking at flexible options for a return to the office, although they are both yet to announce new policies.
Toyota Motor Corporation started construction this week on a 175-acre smart city at the base of Japan’s Mount Fuji, about 62 miles from Tokyo, the company announced Tuesday.
The city, which Toyota has dubbed the “Woven City,” is expected to function as a testing ground for technologies like robotics, smart homes, and artificial intelligence. A starting population of about 360 inventors, senior citizens, and families with young children will test and develop these technologies.
These residents, who are expected to move into the Woven City within five years, will live in smart homes with in-home robotics systems to assist with daily living and sensor-based artificial intelligence to monitor health and take care of other basic needs, according to the company.
The eventual plan is for the city to house a population of more than 2,000 Toyota employees and their families, retired couples, retailers, and scientists. Toyota announced plans for the city last year at CES, the tech trade show in Las Vegas.
Here’s what the 175-acre smart city is set to look like when it’s finished.
Toyota’s planned 175-acre smart city will sit at the base of Mount Fuji in Japan, about 62 miles from Tokyo.
The Woven City will function as a testing ground for technologies like robotics, smart homes, and artificial intelligence, according to the company.
Toyota officially started construction on the city in a groundbreaking ceremony on Tuesday, the company announced. The city is set to be built on the site of one of Toyota’s former manufacturing plants called Higashi-Fuji.
Toyota plans to send about 360 people to live in the Woven City to start. From there, it intends to gradually grow the population to more than 2,000.
The first residents will be a group of roughly 360 inventors, senior citizens, and young families with children, according to the company. These residents will move in within five years, a Toyota spokesperson told Insider last year.
Toyota has not yet revealed how these first residents will be chosen, and a spokesperson did not immediately respond to Insider’s request for more details.
Eventually, the Woven City is expected to be home to more than 2,000 Toyota employees and their families, retired couples, retailers, visiting scientists, and industry partners.
Residents will live in homes outfitted with in-home robotics technology as well as sensor-based artificial intelligence to monitor their health and take care of their basic needs.
Despite the planned high-tech homes, Toyota says that promoting human connection is a major theme of the city but has not released specifics on how it plans to encourage this.
Press materials indicate that the planned city will feature multiple parks and a large central plaza for social gatherings.
Buildings are to be made mostly of wood to minimize the carbon footprint.
Rooftops are slated to be covered in photo-voltaic panels to generate solar power and hydrogen fuel cell power.
Toyota says it plans to integrate nature throughout the city with native vegetation and hydroponics, a method of growing plants without soil.
The city will be designed with three different types of streets: one for self-driving vehicles, one for pedestrians using personal mobility devices like bikes, and one for pedestrians only.
These three types of streets will form an “organic grid pattern” to help test autonomy, according to Toyota.
There will also be one underground road used for transporting goods.
A fleet of Toyota’s self-driving electric vehicles, called e-Palettes, will be used for transportation, deliveries, and mobile retail throughout the city.
Toyota has not yet disclosed an estimated completion date or estimated total cost for building the Woven City.
The Woven City joins a slew of similar smart city projects across Japan, some of which are also spearheaded by major companies.
In 2014, electronic appliance company Panasonic opened a smart city in Japan’s Kanagawa Prefecture called the Fujisawa Sustainable Smart Town, per Tokyo Esque, a market research agency. The city is still under construction with completion expected in 2022, but more than 2,000 people live there now, according to Panasonic.
Accenture, an American-Irish consulting company, is teaming up with the University of Aizu on smart city projects in the town of Aizuwakamatsu with the goal of better using artificial intelligence in public services, the company announced in July 2020.
“If it’s not started from a human-centric perspective, from the bottom up as opposed to from the top down, these aren’t real cities,” John Jung, founder of the Intelligent Community Forum think tank, told Bloomberg in January 2020. “They’re not designed to get [people] to know each other.”
A global shortage of computer chips has caused shutdowns at several automotive manufacturing plants – and car dealerships are already reflecting the shortage.
Car shoppers can expect to see an impact in the availability of certain car models due to the chip shortage, as well as a price increase, according to Cars.com executive editor Joe Wiesenfelder. Dealerships may also be less likely to offer deals as supplies dwindle.
“Consumers in the market of considering buying a car should shop now because choices and prices could worsen over the next two quarters,” Wiesenfelder told Insider.
Car companies began halting production at manufacturing plants in North America in the beginning of January.
Semiconductor chips have become an essential part of the manufacturing process for vehicles. The chips are used in navigation, bluetooth, and collision-detection systems and account for about 40% of a new car’s cost, according to a report from Deloitte.
The lack of chips has forced automakers to prioritize production of their higher-priced and more-profitable models.
Here are some of the models Cars.com said may see price increases or limited availability.
Toyota has already started increasing prices
The Toyota Tundra was one of the first cars to see a halt in production.
Cars.com said the Tundra has seen a drop in inventory of almost 27% for the month of February. Some Toyota models have already demonstrated price increases, including the Tacoma, which has gone up about $584 or 1.6%, despite only a 4% decrease in inventory, according to Cars.com.
Many Japanese carmakers are seeing an impact. Honda was one of the first car companies to warn of computer chip shortages, according to Bloomberg.
The Japanese carmaker has slashed production at several major manufacturing plants. In particular, shoppers can expect to see some pressure on the Honda Accord, Civic, Insight, and Odyssey, as well as the Acura RDX.
Nissan has had to adjust production in both Japan and North America. A spokesperson told Insider the company is continuing to assess the long-term impact of the chip shortage. For now, the models that have seen slowdowns for the carmaker include the Nissan Altima, Frontier, and Titan.
In February, Subaru reported it planned to cut its production plan for 2021 by about 58,000 cars. The models impacted by the cut include the Subaru Ascent, Impreza, Legacy, and Outback.
Ford and General Motors expect to lose billions of dollars
Ford began slowing down production at its plant in Louisville in January. During Ford’s fourth-quarter earnings call, CFO John Lawler said the chip shortage could cut the company’s first-quarter production by 10% to 20% – a $2.5 billion hit to revenue.
The car models that will be impacted by cuts at Ford plants include the Ford Escape and Lincoln Corsair, which are produced at the Louisville plant. Cars.com said there will also be declines in production of the Ford Edge and Explorer, as well as the Lincoln Aviator and Lincoln Nautilus.
The company announced last week that it was closing three of its North American plants. The manufacturing sites will remain closed until at least mid-March.
The closures are expected to impact the Buick Encore, Cadillac XT4, and GMC Terrain. The company’s Chevrolet line will also see some slowdowns, as the sites that produce Chevrolet Equinox, Malibu, and Trax have been impacted.
Fiat Chrysler and Volkswagen also feel the pinch
In January Fiat Chrysler suspended operations at plants in Ontario and Mexico. The slowdowns will impact several Chrysler, Dodge, and Jeep products. Cars.com said dealerships will likely have lower inventories for the Chrysler 300, Pacifica, and Voyager. The Dodge Challenger and Charger may be in shorter supply, as well as the Jeep Cherokee and Compass.
BMW, Mercedes-Benz, and Volkswagen were some of the first car companies overseas to report shortages. In December, Volkswagen had already begun lowering production rates. The Volkswagen Atlas, Atlas Cross Sport, and Passat have already been impacted by the supply disruption.
Toyota, Honda, Subaru, Ford, GM, Fiat Chrysler, and Volkswagen did not respond in time to comment.