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Toyota Reportedly Planning Radical, 3-Seat Sports Car

Concept said to be on tap for Tokyo Motor Show.

by on May.27, 2015

Toyota has been studying a number of extreme options, including the i-Road commuter car.

Ever since he came onboard as the top executive at a company long known for its sturdy and reliable – but plain vanilla – products, Akio Toyoda has been pressing his team to pump some “passion” into its line-up.

Toyota has offered some hints of what’s in store with concepts like the exotic FT-1, as well as more stylish production models such as the Lexus RC coupe. But now, it seems, the Japanese giant is ready to take things to the next level.

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A variety of sources have indicated that Toyota will roll out a new sports car concept at the Tokyo Motor Show next October. But this isn’t just a new version of the Lexus RC – or even a production version of the FT-1. The open-wheeler apparently will have room for three and use a high-performance hybrid drivetrain.

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Design Remains More Art than Digital Science

Designers search for the balance between passion and hard data.

by on May.08, 2014

GM Designer Tom Peters with the 2014 Chevrolet Corvette. He led the exterior design team.

While sophisticated technology has become an essential tool in the modern automotive styling studio, it still requires a human touch to bring designs to life.

“The artistic aspect is critical to car design,” stressed Tom Peters, the lead designers at General Motors for performance cars, during a discussion on car design at a meeting of the Automotive Press Association. “It’s through the human touch the passion is instilled in cars,” added Peters.  “Our products are very tactile, you have to engage the senses.”

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Designed for You!

Though infotainment systems and fuel economy have becoming increasingly critical, competitive elements in today’s auto market, design remains one of the most important factors for shoppers choosing a new vehicle, studies reveal. In fact, there are many who contend that this is a new “Golden Age” for stylists as even brands like Toyota and Hyundai that traditionally settled for “plain vanilla” styling push for more passion in their products.

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Toyota Hints of “Passionate” Design Future with FT-1 Sports Car Concept

“5-alarm visual impact,” but no clear production plans.

by on Jan.13, 2014

Toyota delivers a surprise as it unveils the FT-1 sports car concept during the Detroit show's opener.

Forget the fuel economy numbers and the environmentally friendly products it normally talks about. When Toyota rolled into town for this year’s North American International Auto Show, it had muscle on its corporate mind.

Toyota delivered one of the big – if many – surprises to come from this year’s Detroit Auto Show as it revealed the new FT-1 sports car concept, which a senior executive described as “emblematic” of the more “passionate” direction the maker will take with its styling going forward.

A Sporting Choice!

While many of the makers launching new products at this year’s Detroit Auto Show gave reporters a sneak peek at what they were planning, the Japanese giant maintained a strict curtain of silence which led to even more speculation about what might be in store.  Many observers were expecting to see the return of the once-popular Toyota Supra.

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First Drive: 2013 Toyota Avalon

Toyota pumps some passion into its big sedan.

by on Oct.30, 2012

Toyota rethinks its design language with the new 2013 Avalon sedan.

This story has been updated to include pricing and other information.

For a brand long known for high quality but plain vanilla design, Toyota sent shock waves through the industry when it revealed an all-new version of the big Avalon sedan earlier this year.  The new, full-size sedan is perhaps the single best example yet that Toyota CEO Akio Toyoda was serious when he promised to put more “passion” into the brand.

The long-popular Avalon has been completely revamped for 2013 and is now the most “American” car the Japanese maker has ever developed, the striking new design emerging from Toyota’s styling center in Newport Beach, California, with the maker’s engineering center in Ann Arbor, Michigan taking lead on that end of the product.  Production will be U.S.-based, as well.

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Avalon is clearly part of Toyota’s quest for younger buyers, the 2013 remake boasting a fresh exterior design that moves away from the conservative and cautious approach that had characterized earlier versions of the big sedan. But looks aside, we set out to see if the 2013 Toyota Avalon really lives up to all the hype as we headed to California for our first test drive.

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For Toyota, Continued Growth Requires “Change”

High quality no longer enough, concedes autos chief.

by on Aug.14, 2012

The new Camry is gaining ground, says Carter, by appealing to a new generation of buyers.

“We’re changing who we are,” proclaimed Toyota Senior Vice President Bob Carter during an industry conference in New York.

That might seem an odd and risky strategy for a company that has been operating at the top of its game for most of the past few decades – with only a few uncomfortable setbacks like its unintended acceleration crisis of 2009 and 2010.  But despite growth that’s outpacing the overall industry recovery, Carter said Toyota can’t simply expect to maintain its growth by doing business as usual, even if the maker is “back on the top of our game.”

There’s no question 2012 is turning into a good year for the giant maker.  Sales are up 30% for the first seven months and while July’s numbers were “only” up 27% that positioned Toyota as the market’s number one brand in terms of retail sales.

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During a speech to today’s J.P. Morgan Auto Conference, Carter, Toyota’s Vice President of Automotive Operations, acknowledged that the Japanese maker has picked up sales from loyalists who waited on the sidelines last year due to product shortages caused by Japan’s March 2011 earthquake and tsunami.  “But it would be a mistake,” the Toyota veteran insisted to think that “was the only reason for our growth as a brand” this year.

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Toyota Puts Emphasis on Striking Design with 2013 Avalon

New look for an old, familiar nameplate.

by on Apr.05, 2012

Toyota shifts design direction with the 2013 Avalon.

It was one of the big mysteries of the 2012 New York Auto Show: what would Toyota name the new full-size sedan it planned to unveil during the annual show’s press days?  Ultimately, it was no surprise at all.  The new car will stick with an old, familiar nameplate: Avalon.  But there all similarities end.

Toyota has long been known for quality, value and reliability — or QVR, in industry terms – but when it comes to design and driving dynamics, well, think plain vanilla.  But times are changing.  The original design for the 2012 Camry was panned by Toyota dealers and even after making some major changes the midsize model took plenty of critical hits.  So, when it came time to re-do the brand’s flagship, then-new Toyota Motor Co. CEO Akio Toyoda encouraged a dramatic change.

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He got it.  The 2013 Toyota Avalonhas an elegant yet edgy shape that will clearly surprise Toyota loyalists – as well as its critics.  Initial reaction following its unveiling at New York’s Jacob Javits Convention Center has been almost universally positive.

“This is the first vehicle in Toyota’s line-up to have Akio Toyoda’s thumbprint on it,” said Toyota Division General Manager Bob Carter, following the maker’s news conference.

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“Stunning” New Toyota Concept May Be Next-Generation Avalon

Sneak peek signals NY Auto Show preview.

by on Mar.28, 2012

Will this be the next-gen Toyota Avalon?

“Passion” is a word that Toyota CEO – and founding family heir – Akio Toyoda talks a lot about.  It’s something he readily admits Toyota products don’t have enough of it, and that in today’s competitive market it’s something the brand desperately needs.

Clearly, the oft-maligned styling of the latest Toyota Camry didn’t deliver, despite a last-minute styling tweak intended to satisfy near-mutinous dealers.  Last year’s launch of the new Lexus GS and the recent unveiling of the LF-LC concept hint that Toyota product developers are taking the mandate seriously.  Or so we may see with the planned NY Auto Show preview of what the Japanese maker is calling a “stunning U.S.-designed sedan.”

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The maker clearly considers the launch significant, providing this teaser shot a week ahead of the big event at New York’s Jacob Javits Center.  Meanwhile, spy shots are popping up and from the industry scuttlebutt it appears that what we see here is going to soon reappear as the next-generation Toyota Avalon.

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Toyota “Puts the Past Behind Us”

Maker to emphasize “aggressive dynamics,” passionate styling, not just quality.

by on Nov.02, 2011

Toyota was forced to make major changes to the 2012 Camry's design when dealers gave the original look a thumbs-down.

It was definitely not the sort of reception Toyota executives were anticipating – but it was a clear eye-opener when they took a prototype of the all-new Camry sedan to show U.S. dealer during the spring of 2010.

“They were not thrilled,” admits Jim Lentz, Toyota’s top U.S. executive.  “They wanted an extra 10%,” especially when it came to what Lentz now admits was a dull exterior design.  “So, that’s what we gave them.”

The meeting led to some dramatic changes to what was launched, several months ago, as the 2012 Toyota Camry – the final production version of the sedan getting new front and rear fascias, rockers and tail lamps as well as some modest interior tweaks.

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But more importantly, the face-off with dealers has led Toyota to think differently about what it brings to market, says Lentz.  “Staying closer to our dealers (gets us) much closer to our customers,” he explains, adding that the message learned is that Toyota cannot simply market itself as a company producing high-quality cars anymore.

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