Toyota Hits Back in Battle of Fuel Misers

December 7, 2013 9:47 AM

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Toyota Hits Back in Battle of Fuel Misers

Toyota Motor Corp. again boasts the world’s most fuel-efficient car. Just three months after losing that claim to Honda Motor Co., the Japanese auto giant has quickly come back with a new model that sips even less gasoline.

Toyota’s focus on squeezing the most mileage out of each gallon isn’t just a case of improving fuel economy, it’s also a measure of the importance the car maker places on keeping its rivals at bay. And when it comes to Toyota’s speedy response to the breakthroughs of other car makers, Honda already has bitter experience.

The partially remodeled Aqua compact hybrid can run for up to 37.0 kilometers on a liter of gasoline, or about 87 miles per gallon. That’s better than the 36.4km/l eked out by Honda’s redesigned Fit hybrid compact.

Toyota says the car is the world’s most fuel-efficient gasoline-powered passenger car, but it excludes plug-in hybrids from the count. Plug-in hybrids use more electricity for power. It should also be noted that results from car fuel-efficiency tests can vary in different markets. The car, launched Monday, is currently only available in Japan.

The world’s largest auto maker said it achieved the new record by reducing engine friction and upgrading the engine and motor control system to achieve a better combination of the car’s two power sources.

The speed that Toyota was able to reclaim its crown as king of the miserly car makers will likely disappoint Honda, Japan’s third-largest auto maker. Beating the company’s larger rival on fuel consumption has been a long-standing goal for CEO Takanobu Ito, an indication of Honda’s ability to compete on the latest technology.

The swift counterattack is reminiscent of Toyota’s response to Honda’s launch of its first competitively priced hybrid car four years ago. At that time Honda executives felt confident the Insight would sweep customers away from Toyota’s flagship hybrid, the Prius. But its rival immediately hit back by slashing its Prius prices and launching a new model before Honda could build momentum for its best-seller.

Still, it remains to be seen what impact the new fuel claims will have this time around. The Fit was the best selling car in Japan for the second month in a row in November. That comes after the company received four times as many orders as its monthly sales target in the first month after the compact’s debut in early September.

Another factor price-conscious car buyers may consider is overall cost. Suzuki Motor Co. will launch the latest version of its Alto Eco mini car later this month. The mini car has a tiny 660cc engine and claims to have fuel-economy of 35km/l even without the help of electric motor. While that may make it a fraction more expensive to run in terms of gasoline, it’s considerably cheaper to buy, coming in at about half the price of the Fit and the Aqua.


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