Asimo, Honda Motor Co.'s humanoid robot, is getting some competition. Toyota Motor Corp. has created a division to make Toyota a powerhouse in the business of robots for work around the house and office, says Japanese newspaper Asahi Shimbun. Toyota expects such robots to be in demand because of labor shortages in the services industry, the paper says. The robots will be available by 2010. And what will they do? Initially, says the paper, Toyota will develop a receptionist robot for dealerships. It will be able to do things such as offer drinks to customers while determining their vehicle preferences.
SOUPING UP SCION -- Toyota's Scion youth brand is making its presence felt on the drag-racing circuits with two factory-backed teams driving hopped-up Scion tC coupes. Driver Christian Rado will compete in the Pro Outlaw Front-Wheel Drive class with an engine that produces more than 1,200 hp with methanol fuel. Leslie Durst will compete in the All-Motor/Pro Stock class, which uses the original vehicle engine, tuned to 320 hp.
SASSY SEPTUAGENARIANS -- General Motors annual meeting got a little salty last week when a perennial gadfly -- no spring chicken herself -- told GM Vice Chairman Robert Lutz he was too long in the tooth to be hip to styling trends. Evelyn Davis, a shareholder activist who has been a staple at GM meetings since at least deep into the 1960s, held up a photo of a 1950s-era Russia-built Volga and asked Lutz if GM might consider such a retro theme. Lutz, who thought she said "Volvo," replied: "I don't think we'll be making any old Volvos." Then the fireworks started. "It's a Volga, not a Volvo," Davis said. "You are the problem, Bob. You're not with it. You're getting too old." Lutz fired back: "Why don't you take over for me? Then we'll really be in good shape." For the record, Lutz is 73. Davis will turn 76 in August.
NEW YORK STATE OF MIND -- B. Edward Ewing will have suitable digs the next time he swings by his New York office for an update on his automotive holdings. The Texas billionaire, who made his fortune through investments in struggling companies such as Key Plastics LLC and the former Breed Technologies Inc., just bought a 10-room apartment in the swanky Trump Park Avenue in Manhattan for $8.5 million. The astute financier got the place for about $3 million below the asking price, says the Wall Street Journal. Ewing, whose private equity firm, Ewing Management Group, is based in Dallas, also has estates in Dallas and Rancho Santa Fe, Calif.