In his 16 years as president and CEO of Toyota Financial Services, George Borst created the most diverse management team in TFS history, gender-wise. For this achievement, he received the Outstanding CEO award from Linkage’s Women in Leadership Institute. Borst retired in September 2013, but he’s still serving as an executive adviser for TFS.
Borst didn’t just hire women; he encouraged them to network and mentor one another, which is an important factor in women’s advancement. He was an advocate for Toyota’s resource group for its female employees, TORQUE (I do not know what that stands for, but I’d love to). Its annual conference of women from North American Toyota affiliates grew to 200 participants, nearly doubling its attendance in three years.
Every year at the LA Auto Show, Green Car Journal bestows the laurel wreath of green-ness and car-ness on a notable vehicle. Pickings used to be slim for this award, but there are slew of contenders anymore. This year, the five finalists include diesels, hybrids, and even a couple of plain-old gas-powered cars that have technological tricks that up their fuel economy into hybrid-like numbers.
Here’s the short list:
- Audi A6 TDI: diesel sports sedan with a 38 mpg highway rating and 240 hp
- BMW 328d: diesel sedan with a 45 mpg highway rating and regenerative brakes
- Honda Accord: makes the list for having an efficient gasoline engine, a hybrid, and a plug-in version
- Mazda3: gasoline sedan that ekes out 41 mpg on the highway via tech improvements
- Toyota Corolla: gasoline sedan gets 42 mpg when you push the Eco button
For nearly two decades, J.D. Power has been releasing the Automotive Performance, Execution, and Layout Study, which asks owners to rate their car on 77 attributes using a 1000-point scale. I feel its safe to assume that the owners who fulfill this huge survey request are super persnickety, which might actually make the results more reliable.
The real-world result of this study for you, dear car buyer, is that cars with higher APEAL scores fly off the lot — and at higher prices. As the study says:
Owners of vehicles with an APEAL score of 100 points or higher than the segment average typically spend at least $1,800 more on their new vehicle than do owners of vehicles with a score of at least 100 points lower than the segment average.
This does not mean that dealerships are gouging buyers; it means that customers are willing to pay more for cars that rank highly according to the APEAL study. And dealerships know that, so your negotiating skills will need to be on fire if you want to knock a significant amount of money off an APEAL-ing car’s sticker price.
Unsurprisingly, the manufacturers with scores above the industry average of 795 (out of 1000, remember) are often luxury car builders. See for yourself.
In seven years of having my cool and unusual job of being a freelance automotive journalist, I’ve noticed one nearly universal misconception: people think I get cars from local dealerships to test drive. I like to think they imagine me wandering about the lot, one hand on my chin, as I decide which car is worthy of my week-long attentions. Then I point with an imperious finger. “This one!” I say. “This Honda Fit shalt be my chariot for the next half-fortnight.” Probably they imagine that I just call up the Nissan place, or the Ferrari place, or the Ford place and ask for a car. Neither of these is true.
There are three ways I get cars to test drive and review, and none of them involve me being imperious. One of them involves me being really lazy.
There are advantages and disadvantages to each of these. Launches are swanky, but fast fly-in-fly-out affairs, meaning the jet lag is fierce. Getting a car from the fleet is convenient, but the cars all blend together after awhile if you’re not careful. That blending together is doubly true at association events, where I sometimes have to look at the emblem on the steering wheel to remind myself what car I just climbed into after a long day of driving, but being able to meet up with other journalists is priceless.
You’ve probably figured out that this isn’t any kind of sexy expose. If you ask any automotive journalist at a party how they get their cars, they’ll tell you the same thing. And the big car magazines just have press cars in the garage all the damn time for employees to try out and review. So it’s not a secret, but now that you know, the next time you see me at a party, you can jump right to the next most popular question: “What’s your favorite car?”
Women automotive journalists around the world (but not me) were asked to vote on their favorite cars five categories, with one overall winner named Car of the Year. Though categories ranged from SUVs to luxury cars to economy cars, it was the little Ford that could that won in the end. The Ford Fiesta 1.0L Eco-Boost is a small car with a small but powerful turbocharged three-cylinder engine.
Bonus lesson! What does “one liter” mean in terms of engines? That’s the amount of space inside the engine’s cylinders. More space means more power, since you need room for the air and fuel to mix and ignite and move the pistons up and down. Bigger engines make bigger explosions in those cylinders, which translates to faster cars.
Women who write about cars — and their worldwide audiences, presumably — appreciate the Fiesta’s good looks, but really it’s about the 40-plus combined miles per gallon that this little guy gets.
Note that this list of all the category winners is pretty much made up of “Rest of the World” cars, which means the versions sold outside North America. That said, these cars are comparable everywhere.
- Audi Allroad
- VW Golf
- BMW 3 Series
- Range Rover
- Mercedes-Benz SL550
- BMW 6 Series
- Porsche Boxster S
- Audi RS5
- Subaru BRZ/Toyota 86 (which are also the same as the Scion FR-S)
- Mazda CX5
- Hyundai Santa Fe
- Nissan Pathfinder
- Ford Fiesta 1.0L Eco-Boost
- Kia Forte
- Toyota Prius
The Northwest Automotive Press Association, of which I am a member, got together in Portland, Oregon, last week and tested 17 alternative-fuel cars — hybrids, electric cars, and diesels. There were city commuters and luxury land yachts, and they all competed on the same drives by the same drivers all day long. At the end of the sunny summer afternoon, we had a winner in each category.
- Best Electric Car: Fiat 500e Believe it or not, the electric version of this little guy has more power and more torque than the gasoline version, and a better weight balance. All of that means its more fun to drive. The drawback: It’s only available in California so far.
- Best Hybrid Car: Chevy Volt This isn’t a new car, but it is an improved car. It helps that the idea of an extended-range plug-in hybrid car (the gas-powered engine generates extra electricity when you need it) isn’t so weird anymore. America is coming around.
- Best Clean Diesel: Chevy Cruze Turbo Diesel Chevrolet racks up its second category win with this quiet clean diesel car. The bright-red paint of the test car spoke to its sporty feel, thanks to the turbochargers under the hood.
The fact that we had 17 cars to test in three categories show how far we’ve come in the green-car arena. No longer are we relegated to the Prius or the electric car converted in your friend’s garage with a kit you ordered over the internet. We’ve got options!
Reviews of the other cars in the lineup worth noting will be coming soon, so stay tuned, or sign up for the newsletter to get the reviews in your inbox.
Not every woman who makes a difference in the automotive industry is an engineer or scientist — it only seems that way if you read most of my blog or check out the posts on my Take the Wheel Facebook page. Some women, like Faith Stewart, community affairs manager for the Goodyear Tire and Rubber Company in Akron, Ohio, are making a difference using communication skills and service.
Stewart was awarded the Women’s Network of Northeast Ohio 2013 Woman of Achievement honor in June for her work with community and charitable outreach programs for Goodyear, which she’s led since 2003. The Women’t Network of Northeast Ohio gives the award each year to women who encourage success among women, mentor, and support women’s progress toward full participation in economic, community, and family life.
In the debate over whether women — or even men — can have it all, or if there is such a thing as work-life balance, Stewart and her fellow honorees (there were four total this year) are giving it their best shot and helping other women to give it their best shot too.
Trei Dudley, Youth of the Year, with her new Corolla
Trei Dudley has seven younger siblings. She lived in poverty and suffered domestic violence. But she found support through the Boys & Girls Club of Lawrence, Kansas. She turned that support around and became a mentor to other kids in the program, then a junior staffer, all while keeping her grades high — high enough that she’s now attending the University of Arkansas and majoring in business.
To honor her hard work and compassion, Dudley received a new Toyota Corolla from Toyota Financial Services’ “Making Life Easier for YOUth” initiative. Dudley was nominated by her club and eventually selected as the 2012-2013 Boys & Girls Clubs of America National Youth of the Year.