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Want to Drive a Ford Ranger or Toyota Hilux? Better Talk to Uncle Sam

Want to Drive a Ford Ranger or Toyota Hilux? Better Talk to Uncle Sam

U.S. Military wants pickups and SUVs that blend into wartime locations

The global Ford Ranger, along with the Toyota Hilux and Land Cruiser 76 and 79 models aren’t available in the U.S. thanks to safety and emissions regulations. However, the U.S. Military has secured a contract with an Ohio-based company to upfit 396 of the trucks and SUVs with armor and communication equipment for duty in regions where the vehicles are commonly found.

It’s the perfect form of camouflage, actually. The enemy is far less likely to spot a Land Cruiser than a Humvee or MRAP.

The contract is between the U.S. Special Operations Command (SOCOM) at MacDill Air Force Base in Tampa, Florida and the Battelle Memorial Institute of Columbus, Ohio. The five-year contract is worth $170 million for as many as 556 vehicles. According to Military Aerospace, 396 of the vehicles will be armored with the remaining 160 vehicles retaining their OEM looks.

Battelle will add various levels of crew protection like armor, along with stronger suspension and braking systems, frame and body reinforcements, and run-flat tires on special wheels that can withstand small arms fire. Infrared lighting for blackout mode will be included, along with C4ISR equipment, otherwise known as command, control, communications, computer, intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance equipment. These upfitted vehicles will mostly consist of the Land Cruiser.

It will be a while before these vehicles see combat, however. Battelle will need time for developing the specialized add-ons for these specific vehicles. The prototypes then have to pass the military’s grueling evaluation process and qualification testing. At that time, the government may issue delivery orders for production. Yep, none of this is set in concrete. Battelle expects to have the contract finished by 2023.

Continue reading for more information.

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Japan Eyeballing the 2020s for Introduction of Automated Vehicles

Japan Eyeballing the 2020s for Introduction of Automated Vehicles

We do our best to keep you in the loop when it comes to new and cool developments in the automotive world. One of the hottest topics going right now in the U.S. is automated driving. Though it is still several decades away from being a national reality, although some states are legalizing autonomous cars, we are still seeing some progress. The leader in this technology to date in the U.S. is the Google Prius, but other automakers - such as Cadillac and Ford - sniffing around the automated car sector.

In Japan, however, they are taking the bull by the horns and setting up an outline for national implementation of an autonomous driving system. According to a report from Tech-On, the Japanese Ministry of Land, Infrastructure, Transport, and Tourism (MLIT) is starting to piece together how to make automated driving a reality in as little as eight years.

Starting immediately, the MLIT will start piecing together the problems related to automated driving and neatly package it in an interim report that is due for release in March of 2013. Some of the issues at hand have to include: driver attentiveness, driver override ability, handling of accidents, and infrastructure development.

The MLIT has already employed the help of Toyota, Nissan, Fuji Heavy Industries Ltd. (A.K.A. Subaru), Honda, and Mazda in this project. Heading up the entire team is Yasuo Asakura, a professor at the Tokyo Institute of Technology.

For now, this is all just talk and we will see if anything ever comes of it. If this is actually a serious deal, it could drastically accelerate the timeframe that we in the industry have set for automated cars. We will keep a close eye on this situation and update you if any new details come up. Until then, enjoy your steering wheel, while you still can.

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One Step Closer to Self-Driving Cars, as California Senate Approves Bill

One Step Closer to Self-Driving Cars, as California Senate Approves Bill

Looks like states are finally jumping on the autonomous-driving bandwagon, but this time it has a little “oomph” behind it. Having Nevada pass a bill specifically to allow and regulate automated driving was great, but this time it’s California that gave it the green light. California’s driving and automotive laws have always had a big influence on federal laws – except lane splitting, thank goodness – so chances are more states will follow and the NHTSA will eventually jump on board.

The thing to remember here is that this bill was not to allow autonomous cars to drive on California roads, as California has no laws barring self-driving cars. This law is to govern the production and testing of these cars in hopes of giving manufacturers a clear set of rules regarding these cars, which may press more automakers into this realm.

The first thing that California cleared up is defining an autonomous vehicle. This is any vehicle that can drive without any human intervention, so this eliminates Cadillac’s self-driving car for now and leaves only the Google car (seen in the above video). It also specifies that it is legal to manufacture your own autonomous car and drive it on California highways, which is an interesting topic of debate.

The bill goes on to state that the car must have a licensed driver in the driver’s seat and that driver must be designated by the car’s builder as a legal driver for said vehicle. The only exception to this rule is on a closed course. The manufacturer must also have an insurance policy or bond in the amount of $5 million prior to testing the vehicle. From there the bill goes on to define what safety issues the manufacturer, car, and driver must comply with.

Keep in mind that this is only the first step for this bill, as it must pass the State Assembly next. Given the bill passed 37 – 0, we doubt it will be held up.

Click past the jump to read the bill. Yes, it is in regular English, not “politicianese.”

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$1.5 Million in Luxury Cars Seized by U.S. Customs

$1.5 Million in Luxury Cars Seized by U.S. Customs

There are a lot of new car scams in the world and most of them are initiated by the new car dealer, not the buyer. A group of buyers flipped the script on several Los Angeles dealerships, by using fake identities to purchase 20 cars and were shipping them to Hong Kong and Vietnam to sell them for two to three times their U.S. value.

It was a laundry list of luxury vehicles, such as a $280,000 2010 Ferrari 458 Italia, an Audi Quattro, 2012 Lamborghini Aventador LP700-4, along with several Mercedes, Lexus, Infiniti, and BMW SUVs among others. For some reason, the thieves even threw in a Toyota Tundra.

The one that got these fraudsters busted was the Ferrari 458 Italia, as Ferrari fitted the supercar with a GPS system as standard, which Ferrari used to track the car once they found out they were defrauded. This led U.S. Customs and the California highway Patrol to conduct a full investigation and find the cars on a ship that had already pulled away from the port.

Needless to say, that ship was forced to come back and all but four of the cars were recovered. The four non-recovered cars are due to be shipped back by Vietnamese Customs.

According to the report, had the fraudsters not gone after the Ferrari, chances are they would have gotten away with this scam and made a ton of money in the process. The total amount of the vehicles seized by U.S. customs is estimated at $1.5 million, which would have pulled in around $3 million in Hong Kong and Vietnam.

We are still trying to figure out what in the world a Toyota Tundra was doing in the mix with all of these high-end luxury cars. We also wonder which thief drew the short straw and was stuck going to the Toyota dealership to pick this thing up?

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Memo surfaces: Toyota urged to "come clean"

Memo surfaces: Toyota urged to "come clean"

The bad news keeps piling on for Toyota destroying the reputation that took so long to build. Now emails and memos are arising to further confirm that Toyota was not ignorant to the safety issues regarding its models. Toyota has admitted to not communicating these issues to the public and to the government causing them to receive a $16.4 million dollar fine.

Five days before Toyota decided to recall 2 million vehicles due to sticky accelerator pedals, Irv Miller, Toyota’s now former V.P. for Environment and Public Affairs, wrote an email warning his fellow Toyota executives of needing to “come clean”. He wrote, “We are not protecting our customers by keeping this quiet. The time to hide on this one is over. We need to come clean”. On January 21, 2010, the recalls were announced.

Hit the jump for the full story.

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