The North American automotive landscape is littered with the bones of overseas marques that tried and failed to get a toehold here. Peugeot, Austin, Sterling, Yugo, Suzuki, Daewoo… the list goes on and on. Daihatsu had the backing of majority shareholder Toyota and a very successful line of vehicles in its Japanese homeland, so the idea of selling in North America seemed to make sense in the late 1980s. Things didn't work out so well in the end, but two models of Daihatsu could be purchased here for the 1988 through 1992 model years. Here's an example of the better-known Daihatsu, spotted in a Denver-area U-Wrench yard. Apologies for the beschmutzified images; I was pulling vast quantities of Junkyard Boombox parts at this yard's All You Can Carry For $59.99 Sale that day, and I got transmission fluid on the lens. The Charade was very cheap and pretty well screwed-together, but it had to compete against cheap cars from well-known makes such as Subaru (the Justy), Pontiac (the Daewoo-built LeMans), Ford (the Mazda-built Festiva), and Geo (the Suzuki-built Metro), and it was saddled with one of the worst names in automotive history. At least the suits at Daihatsu got the naming thing right with their little mini-SUV: the Rocky. Strangely, I still see the occasional Daihatsu as I roam the car graveyards of the land. I'm not sure where they hide, but they end up here. The three-banger in the '90 Charade generated a not-so-whopping 53 horsepower. Think about that the next time you moan about the new Mirage's allegedly intolerable 78 horses, or the Versa's 109. In Hong Kong, the car's Japanese origins were emphasized in the advertising. We've set a new standards for new cars today… but you can't feel the glow until you drive one away!
The Toyota Prius will enter the 2020 model year with more standard technology features, including one that owners have spent years clamoring for. The hybrid's powertrain and styling remain unchanged. Car buyers increasingly seek smartphone connectivity, and the Prius finally delivers by offering standard Apple CarPlay regardless of trim level. It's the latest Toyota model to gain the software after Toyota had long resisted it due to safety and privacy concerns. Amazon Alexa compatibility is also part of the package, but motorists waiting for Android Auto will need to show a little bit more patience. The hybrid segment's poster child also gains standard Toyota Safety Connect. Previously available only on the top-spec Limited trim, Safety Connect bundles emergency assistance, stolen vehicle locator, roadside assistance, and automatic collision notification. There's no stolen battery locator yet. Toyota noted it's giving buyers a free three-year subscription to the Safety Connect service, but they'll need to pay for it after their Prius turns four. Safety Connect normally costs $80 a year or $8 a month. Toyota hasn't made any mechanical modifications to the Prius. The standard model carries on with a gasoline-electric hybrid powertrain consisting of a 1.8-liter four-cylinder engine, a continuously variable transmission (CVT), and two electric motors that draw power from a lithium-ion battery pack. All-wheel drive models gain an additional motor mounted over the rear axle, and a nickel-metal hybride battery that's better suited to extremely cold temperatures than the lithium-ion unit. The 2020 Toyota Prius will join the plug-in Prius Prime in showrooms nationwide in the coming weeks. Pricing information hasn't been revealed yet, but expect a small dollar increase to offset the additional equipment.