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No. 1 private: SUV and truck sales keep Gulf States Toyota on top

No. 1 private: SUV and truck sales keep Gulf States Toyota on top

June 18, 2018

Hurricane Harvey may have damaged Gulf States Toyota’s headquarters, but the storm failed to make a dent in the independent Toyota distributor’s financial success.

For the seventh year in a row, Gulf States Toyota is the top private company in Houston, reporting $8.9 billion in revenue in 2017.

The vehicle distributor serves 158 dealer locations in Arkansas, Louisiana, Mississippi, Oklahoma and Texas. It has 2,100 employees companywide, including 1,900 in Houston.

Chairman and CEO T. Dan Friedkin says demand for Toyota vehicles continues to outpace the industry.

“It’s certainly an advantage to be supplying vehicles that are best-in-class and in high demand,” Friedkin said in an email.

By April of this year, new car sales for the first quarter in Houston rose 12.6 percent over last year, with pickups and SUVs outselling cars by a margin of 2-to-1. In fact, the Toyota Rav4 crossover SUV was among the five best-selling vehicles in Houston last year.

“With a steady production of SUV’s and trucks and the best mix of Toyota vehicles we’ve ever had, we’re well positioned to address the changing needs of consumers,” Friedkin said.

Beyond tapping into shifting market trends, Friedkin cited the company’s commitment to the Toyota brand and a focus on customer service as drivers of its growing performance.

Employees were put to the test during last summer’s hurricane, which forced the headquarters team into a temporary site.

After the storm, associates, dealers and dealer associates from across the U.S., together with a $250,000 donation from Toyota Motor North America, raised more than $1.5 million for the Friedkin Disaster Relief Fund. The money went to 363 individuals, including associates from Gulf States’ parent company, The Friedkin Group, and 23 dealerships across the

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2018 Toyota Hilux Conquest 2.8L 4x4 A/T

2018 Toyota Hilux Conquest 2.8L 4x4 A/T

Marcus De Guzman | June 18, 2018 10:14

Upping The Ante

Little things can often make a big difference. Adding mint leaves brightens up the taste of any salad. Adding a lemon wedge makes a cocktail so much better. Heck, even just adding a smiley to a text gets you a better reply, especially if its for that special someone.

In cars, the same thing applies. Add an armrest, and your car will be more comfortable for you on long drives. Add a better headlight bulb, and visibility will dramatically improve. Add Bluetooth, and you've got plenty of tunes on the go.

Vehicles can be made so much better with just a few little tweaks, and that's exactly what Toyota did for the Hilux, particularly this Conquest variant.

Now on its eighth generation, Toyota's pickup truck now looks, feels and drives like a modern vehicle. Little changes meant that the Hilux has shed some of its utilitarian roots, making for a sleeker and more practical ‘lifestyle-oriented’ vehicle. But despite being more high-tech and refined than its predecessors, some lament the loss of the pickup’s ‘macho’ looks in favor of a softer, more rounded design.

For 2018, Toyota responded with the introduction of the Hilux Conquest. Serving as the new top-of-the-range offering, the Conquest comes packed with new features along with more aggressive looks. Will it be enough to make a difference in the hugely popular segment?

If there’s one thing that I really liked about the Hilux Conquest is its Tacoma-inspired look. The bolder-looking front grill, sleek LED headlights with daytime running lights, and sporty front bumper give the Hilux a more upscale presence. Then there’s the striking Nebula Blue Metallic paint job which frankly made the pickup quite the head-turner. I wasn't so sure about the color when I first laid eyes on it but over time I actually grew to like it. Other standard additions present in the Conquest are the bedliner, sports bar and black taillight trim pieces. 

What's not nice with the Hilux's exterior? That 'Conquest' sticker placed at the tailgate. Personally, most of us at

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Auto review: Tundra truck a subtle champion

Auto review: Tundra truck a subtle champion

By Will Chamberlain, For The Times

Most of the half ton pickup trucks on the market today are wonderful utility vehicles with endless option combinations. The Toyota Tundra has been a quiet benchmark for superb ride, nimble handling and value overall. This week we kick the tires of the 2018 Tundra SR5 Four door.

Under the hood is a 5.7L V8 pumping out 381 horsepower and 401 lb-ft of torque. Mated to a 6-speed automatic transmission and 4WDemand part-time 4WD with electronically controlled transfer case. Power delivery is very smooth and shifts where you would except. In fact, with the TRD performance exhaust, this truck sounded so good you were always looking for a spot to put your foot down. There’s a nice rumble on acceleration, but it’s fairly quiet at idle and cruise.

Exterior styling is large and well-executed. The only problem I have are the small wheel/tires because the truck is so big. Even with 20-inch wheels, they look small and out of place. Regardless, the truck itself is gorgeous with a large, up-front grill flanked by LED headlamps and fog lamps. Running boards along the side help to equalize the proportions which are off due to the truck being a full four-door cab with a huge rear seat. Rear tail lights are still halogen bulbs and that’s annoying, but it works well on this truck. One cool feature on the Tundra is the rear window that opens like a normal window and falls into the cab. Not a sliding window like on most trucks.

Jump into the driver’s seat to find a really simple and easy-to-use dash layout that features a large touch screen and bulky

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Audi CEO Rupert Stadler Has Been Arrested In Ongoing Dieselgate Fallout

Audi CEO Rupert Stadler Has Been Arrested In Ongoing Dieselgate Fallout

June 18, 2018
Audi CEO Rupert StadlerPhoto: Michael Sohn (AP)

Good morning! Welcome to The Morning Shift, your roundup of the auto news you crave, all in one place every weekday morning. Here are the important stories you need to know.

1st Gear: Munich Prosecutors Arrest Audi’s Top Exec

In the ceaseless narrative that is Volkswagen’s decision to cheat on diesel emissions tests, which eventually exploded into the Dieselgate scandal, several executives from Volkswagen and Audi have been arrested for their roles in organizing the massive cheating issue. Now, prosecutors in Munich said Monday that Audi CEO Rupert Stadler has been detained because of “concerns over potential evidence tampering,” reports CNN Money.

Munich prosecutors said in a statement Monday that Rupert Stadler, who has worked for Audi parent company Volkswagen since 1990, had been detained because of concerns over potential evidence tampering.

Stadler, 55, is the highest ranking Volkswagen executive to be arrested in connection to a costly diesel emissions scandal that burst into public view in 2015.

A VW spokesperson confirmed to CNN Money that Stadler had been arrested, and said the automaker’s board would discuss it later Monday.

“The principle of the presumption of innocence continues to apply to Mr. Stadler,” the spokesperson said in a statement.

The arrest follows a $1.2 billion fine levied last week against VW by the German government. Martin Winterkorn, the former VW CEO, was indicted last month by US prosecutors for alleged wire fraud, conspiracy to defraud American customers and violations of the Clean Air Act.

This is the song that never ends.

2nd Gear: Earthquake In Japan Is Messing With Auto Production

Japan’s second-biggest metropolis, Osaka, is dealing with the after-effects of a major 6.1 earthquake Monday that has killed at least three people. According to Automotive News, the earthquake is wreaking havoc on auto production in the area as well, with factory lines halted as a resul.

From Automotive News:

Honda Motor Co., Mitsubishi Motors Corp. and Toyota Motor Corp. unit Daihatsu all stopped production at

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Ford raises F-150 SVT Raptor price for second time on 2018 models

When you have a winner, take advantage of it. That's clearly the motto at Ford with the F-150 SVT Raptor, with the automaker having just raised the price on the 2018 model for the second time this model year. The hike comes without any change in standard equipment, and before the updated 2019 model comes with more and better standard kit and options. The Raptor isn't alone in such subterfuge, the Jeep Wrangler having already gone up in price twice this year. The Wrangler, though, is a brand new once-a-decade model that Jeep still can't make enough of.

When the 2018 Raptor went on sale last year, the Super Cab model cost $49,785 plus $1,295 for destination. In December of last year, Ford raised the price by $430, which was a $330 increase in the Raptor MSRP and $100 more for destination for all F-150 models. As of last week, as CarsDirect discovered, Raptor order guides showed another price bump of $660, which was $560 added to the truck's MSRP, and another $100 tacked onto the destination charge for all F-150 vehicles. That makes the price of the least expensive Raptor now $52,170, which is $1,090 more than when it went on sale. The Super Cab Raptor went up by the same amount, now needing $55,155 to get out the door.

The 2019 Raptor will bring new colors, electronically adjustable Fox Racing shocks, Trail Control — a sort of low-speed cruise control for off-road, new beadlock-capable wheels, and optional Recaro seats. The Raptor hasn't seen an incentive since birth, so anyone looking for the
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2019 Ford F-150 Raptor now with uprated Fox dampers

2019 Ford F-150 Raptor now with uprated Fox dampers

The Ford F-150 Raptor pick-up truck has been updated for the 2019 model year, and while its appearance ostensibly remains much the same as before, it now comes with active dampers for improved terrain handling.

Built at Ford’s Dearborn Truck Plant, the latest iteration of the F-150 Raptor employs electronically controlled Fox internal-bypass dampers with Live Valve technology which enables continuous adjustment of damping, on-the-go. The revised suspension setup is a class-first according to Ford, and employs sensors in both the suspension and in the truck body to improve comfort, handling and resistance to bottoming out.

“Not many trucks need sensors to detect when you are midair. The Raptor sets the dampers to full stiffness to help smooth shock performance as the truck lands,” said global director of Ford Performance vehicle programs Hermann Salenbauch, adding that the Raptor can automatically vary its dampers’ compression rates for the best use of its 13-inch (330 mm) and 13.9-inch (353 mm) suspension travel front and rear.

The Raptor mates the revised suspension with the Terrain Management System for optimal integration of systems, while a new Trail Control system enables improved low-speed control when off-roading. Trail Control works like a kind of low-speed cruise control, which automatically modulates power and braking for each wheel, enabling the driver to focus on steering inputs. This can be activated between 1 mph (1.6 km/h) and 20 mph (32 km/h), depending on driveline position.

No changes of note to the powertrain, which means the retaining of the 3.5 litre turbocharged EcoBoost V6 petrol mill

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Taking a different course; Off-roaders hit OHV Park at night

Taking a different course; Off-roaders hit OHV Park at night

By Reece Waddell | Published Wednesday, June 15 2018

RIDE ALL NIGHT – Off-roader Dave Hansen poses with his 2006 Jeep Wrangler LJ Rubicon. Hansen is one of roughly 300 people who attended Northwest OHV’s all-night ride. Messenger photo by Reece Waddell

As the sun went down Saturday night, visitors from across the Metroplex rolled into Northwest OHV Park for its all-night ride.

The park, along with Bridgeport Parks and Recreation, hosts the after dark ride several times per year.

Bridgeport Recreation Superintendent Chris Heasley said he expected more than 300 people to attend the event.

“It’s something different than the everyday experience,” Heasley said. “Most people are normally getting to ride in the sunlight and [now] they’re getting to ride with their headlights. The other aspect of it is, especially right now when it’s just so hot during the day, this gives them a chance to do it when it’s not 100 degrees outside.”

The Northwest OHV Park is one of only a handful of off-roading parks in the region that allows bigger vehicles on its courses. Heasley believes that, coupled with its close proximity to the Dallas/Fort Worth Area, led to more than 17,000 people coming through the gates in 2017.

“The bigger vehicles, jeeps and SUVs – there aren’t many places for them to go,” Heasley said. “Realistically, the closest

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Your next truck will talk to crosswalks, pay your tolls, and find its own parking

Your next truck/car will talk to crosswalks, pay your tolls, and find its own parking

Jeff Zurschmeide /  Digital Trends   June 15, 2015

Fast forward to the present, and I’ve just seen technology that made me recall that day.

At the Bosch proving grounds near Detroit, Michigan, Bosch engineers showed Digital Trends how roads in the future will communicate with vehicles and let them know when people are crossing. That’s just one application of a coming technology called vehicle-to-anything communications, or V2X.

What is V2X?

V2X is based on Dedicated Short Range Communications (DSRC), which is a short- to medium-range wireless standard that permits very high data-transmission rates. It’s very close to Wi-Fi, and the maximum range is about 1,000 feet.

DSRC operates on dedicated frequencies on the 5.9 GHz band, and both cars and infrastructure can send and receive the signal.

Both cars and infrastructure can send and receive the signal. So for example, simple cameras could register the presence of people in a crosswalk, and the intersection hardware can broadcast that information using DSRC to notify approaching cars of that fact. The cars would then flash a message to their drivers, and pre-charge their own automatic emergency braking systems, just in case.

But here’s another thing: Communication can be two-way, with the cars transmitting information about their status, as well as receiving information from the roadway infrastructure. So cars can talk to other cars (Vehicle to Vehicle or V2V) as well as the infrastructure (V2I).

“What each vehicle is doing is transmitting what’s called a basic safety message,” says Bosch product and engineering manager Phil Ventimiglia. “Within that basic safety message, which is transmitted 10 times a second, there’s a whole host of information about the vehicle itself. It contains the vehicle heading, vehicle speed, and GPS location. It also contains information about the vehicle’s size, the acceleration of the vehicle, the brake status of the vehicle, among other things. The vehicle that’s about to be warned is listening to that, constantly.”

While at Bosch’s proving ground, we saw a demonstration of two vehicles approaching an intersection at right angles. V2V communication with that basic safety message allowed them to avoid a collision in much the same way that current automatic emergency braking works.

“Other automated systems work well, obviously,” Ventimiglia observes, “so the radars and the camera systems can help with those type of scenarios. Where V2X excels is when there’s no line of sight for the camera or the radar. The V2X can still listen and hear that other vehicle coming.”

Can V2X handle the real world?

Watching two vehicles demonstrate the tech in a controlled environment is one thing, but we wondered what happens

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2018 Nissan Frontier Surprises Full-Size Truck Owner

2018 Nissan Frontier Surprises Full-Size Truck Owner

By Andy Mikonis

When Nissan offered me a weeklong loan of a base 2018 Frontier S, I jumped on it for two reasons. First, when I was a judge for PickupTrucks.com's 2016 Midsize Truck Challenge, I noted the Frontier was the bargain in the contest at $37,058 — and that was a well-equipped model. But here was the 2018 base model ringing up at just more than $20,000 and I wondered if the idea still held true.

The second reason was the Nissan Frontier gets a lot of grief for being long in the tooth. It hasn't had a significant redesign since the 2005 model year. This could be a positive, though, since Nissan should have worked all the bugs out by now. I wanted to see whether this criticism was justifiable before the updated 2019 Nissan Frontier hits the roads.

So, what do you get with the base-level Nissan Frontier S?

My 4x2 King Cab test unit with the standard 152-horsepower, 2.5-liter four-cylinder engine and a five-speed manual transmission had a starting price of $19,965 (all prices include destination charges). It had only one factory option — carpeted floormats for $150. Now, it's not unheard of for automakers to overcharge for floormats, but in the case of this Nissan, it puts the truck's total cost at $20,115. If Nissan's goal was to emphasize that this Frontier is value priced, you'd think it would come with cheaper floormats to keep it less than $20,000.

As far as equipment, essential and otherwise, the Frontier S scores quite high. It has air conditioning, cruise control and intermittent wipers. There's a CD player if you are still into that and if you're not, the radio has auxiliary and USB inputs and an "iPod menu" button. Hands-free phone and Siri Eyes Free integration is included. The federally mandated backup camera is a nice touch as well. Finally, as a victim of attempted tailgate theft, I appreciated the lockable tailgate.

What You Get

As far as features you will have to do without, the Nissan Frontier S has basic crank windows (less stuff to break), manual door locks (offend your passenger and they might reach over to unlock your door) and no vanity mirrors (use the rearview mirror to check your teeth). Given the typically loaded press vehicles I test, I found the base configuration refreshing. (I drive a Jeep TJ Wrangler in real life, so I'm no stranger to plastic interiors and crank windows.)

King Cabs have rear-hinged half doors for the passenger compartment and two foldable jump seats with small storage

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Here's How The Mahindra Roxor Compares To A 1948 Willys CJ-2A Jeep Off-Road

Here's How The Mahindra Roxor Compares To A 1948 Willys CJ-2A Jeep Off-Road

David Tracy  June 15, 2018

The Mahindra Roxor is the modern incarnation of the original civilian Jeep, the Willys CJ-2A. But to find out if it’s as good in the rough stuff, I took the Indian side-by-side and my junky 1948 Willys off-road, and beat the crap out of both. After flooding the Willys’ engine and denting the Mahindra’s tub, one winner rose to the top. But by just a hair.

(Full disclosure: Mahindra lent me a Roxor and a trailer for a weekend, U-Haul let me borrow an Auto Transport trailer to bring my CJ-2A along for the ride, and Ram gave me a 1500 for a few days to tow the Willys. I borrowed a lot of stuff for this test, but I returned most of it without dents. Most of it.)

For decades, Wrangler and CJ enthusiasts have complained about how Jeeps aren’t what they used to be. “Oh no, a plastic dash and interior creature comforts!” fans lamented when the YJ Wrangler launched for 1987. “Oh no, coil springs!” they cried in dismay when the TJ launched for 1997. “Good god, so much girth!” they groveled when the enormous JK debuted for 2007. “So many fancy electronics,” they’re probably complaining now that the new JL has shown up.

But now those “they don’t make ’em like they used to” complainers have an opportunity to put their money where their mouths are, because Indian car company Mahindra—which got its start in cars by building Willys CJ-3Bs under license from Willys-Overland in the 1950s—does indeed “make ’em like they used to.” In fact, I toured the company’s factory and saw that it was actually building its Roxor in much the same way that Willys-Overland built its Jeeps in ’40s.

The Roxor is—at least on paper—the real deal, as I pointed out in my article comparing the its tech to old Jeep CJs of yore. But to see if the Roxor was also the real deal off-road, I took it to Rocks And Valleys off-road park in Harrison, Michigan and put it head-to-head up against its distant relative.

Vehicle Dimensions And Geometry

At a time when four-door Wranglers on 40-inch tires seems to be becoming the norm, off-roaders tend to forget just how important size really is off-road, but it’s one of the many things that makes old-school Jeeps so compelling as rough-and-tumble go-anywhere machines.

The Roxor is small, with its 148-inch overall length sitting over a foot and a half shorter than a new two-door Wrangler, and its narrow axles and body spanning a maximum of 62 inches—that’s about 11 inches narrower than a Wrangler JL.

But whereas the Roxor is small, the Willys is tiny. At 123 inches, the little flat-fender is over two feet shorter than the Mahindra, and its 59-inch width means it can squeeze through a slightly narrower gap, too. Mine, with its slightly-taller-than-stock tires, and its aftermarket roll bar, also sits about five inches lower at roughly 70 inches in height, but without the roll bar and with the windshield folded, that disparity would be even bigger.

But one dimension that matters most off-road is the wheelbase. The Roxor’s 96-inch span between its front and rear axles is 16 inches longer than that of the Willys, and—while that yields lots more interior space and probably helped with ride quality—it held the Roxor back when driving over steep crests.

Again, it’s worth mentioning that the Willys CJ-2A’s 31-inch tires are a bit taller than the roughtly 29.5-inch non-directional “NDTs” with which it came from the dealer, but the otherwise-stock flatfender managed to climb up and over grades without issue:

The Roxor, on the other hand, found itself beached a number of times:

In the photo above and the one below, the Mahindra’s transfer-case skid plate rests against the top of the concrete ramp, preventing the vehicle from continuing over the same obstacle that the Willys climbed with ease.

This isn’t a design flaw by any means, it’s simply a compromise between interior space and breakover angle. The Roxor’s got lots more interior room than the Willys thanks to its higher overall length, and to keep the approach and departure angles down, that means keeping the axles near the ends of the vehicle, stretching the wheelbase and decreasing thus

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