Toyota Takes Europe??y Design — Businessweek

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Toyota CS&S

Toyota Takes Europe??y

July 09, 2006


Tokuo Fukuichi, president of European design center, is nervous. Sitting in a plush room in the Japanese carmaker’s showroom on the Champs-Elys??es in Paris, the Fukuichi is about to outline his for Toyota (TM) design in the first comprehensive interview the has given on the subject.

He faces a challenge. Toyota may be the leader in its market, with some 40% of all but it’s relative small fry in Just 5.5% of cars in this market are Toyotas, with Volkswagen’s 19.2% and 8.7%, according to the latest from ACEA.

Of course of the reason is that Toyota has a presence in Europe for less half the time of its competitors. But admits that his company has been held back by design. We have been more daring in our home than here, he says.

auto maker realizes in order to compete, it needs to rev up its game. Six years ago, it ED. its European Design Development at Sofia Antipolis, near in Southern France. Its aim: to cars that appeal to design-conscious European buyers and their specific needs.

At ED, a team of 35 designers and strategists nine countries works on cars that strike a with drivers in countries gas is more expensive than in the parking spaces are harder to and streets are narrower. Our work is influenced by Europe’s politics, its ambitions, its daily routines, and its pets, explains Laurent 28, the only French designer on the

ED struck gold on its first The Yaris, a compact yet spacious auto, was voted car of the year in and Japan in 2000 by leading magazines, and in 2005, Toyota the second-generation Yaris.

ED’s also produces concept that let designers show off wildest visions. One of these is the Sports Specialty (CSS) revealed in 2003. The open-top car a gadget called Toyota Touch, which allows the to select functions such as air using projected holograms.

STRATEGY.But no matter how off the wall the get, ED is careful to stick to design mantra of Vibrant The phrase expresses the company’s and vitality, coupled with its rational, environmentally friendly Despite its gas-guzzling appearance, the CSS Toyota’s Hybrid Synergy electric motor drives the wheels, and a gas engine combines the electric motor to drive the

So far, the strategy seems to be ED’s latest product—the about-towner Aygo—helped push sales (including the Lexus) up between January and May this For fiscal year 2006, Mar. 31, net revenues in Europe 10%.

In an interview with contributor Rachel Tiplady in Fukuichi and Bouzige discussed Toyota might go next. excerpts follow:

What you to Toyota, and what do you feel are the strengths?

Fukuichi: In Japan, university professor often you find your first When I finished art school in Toyota wasn’t everyone’s employer. Most people to work for Honda (HMC). So at the end of the course, he asked the class: Is interested in Toyota?, nobody put up hand.

But that was the era of the first-generation and I loved the look of that so I thought: Why not? That was 32 ago. It’s a classic story—many people join the and stay a lifetime.

What’s the at ED?

Bouzige: A core group of 16 is divided into three interior design; exterior and color and materials. Many change departments for each new The idea is that each knows how each specialty to the others so they have a knowledge of the design process.

Is it difficult to design cars both appeal to European and reflect Toyota’s Japanese

Fukuichi: We have a handful of designers based at Sofia who are partly there to help us to the company’s J-Factor design This, along with Clarity, is Toyota’s design DNA in one It refers to the four key aspects of car Proportions [which must be Architecture [which is always Surface [which expresses and Something Special [the elements that make a car out from the crowd].

At ED, we try to create that appeal to Europeans but retain a strong Japanese in terms of shape and aesthetics. But design features that are popular in Japan wouldn’t here.

For example, Europeans a nice heavy door—it a sensation of quality. But the Japanese a thin door that more space inside the Also, the size of cars has to be In Europe, for parallel parking, the car mustn’t be too long, but you can go for a lot of width. In because of the small garages, the width mustn’t exceed ft.].

Toyota isn’t famous for its which don’t measure up to of most European carmakers. that be a focus for you in the coming

Toyota CS&S

Fukuichi: Yes, it will. absolutely right. A while Toyota’s interiors were conservative, too conservative for European So now we are entirely rethinking our interiors by what Europeans want, not in terms of aesthetics but also

We’re investing a lot of energy in attractive, dynamic, but user-friendly We are studying, for instance, the optimum between the driver’s eye and the dashboard in of comfort and safety. Also, rethinking how we position instruments on the the speedometer relates to less information like, say, the

The head of Toyota Germany told BusinessWeek that trails BMW badly in so-called design. Is addressing this a priority for you?

Fukuichi: It on what type of car you’re about. For SUVs, which is a high-growth segment for Europeans, have quite conservative But when it comes to sedans, want more daring European carmakers are a constant of inspiration. Especially because the approach is often more

How does ED work within global design organization? your team collaborate design centers in other Do teams compete against other to design a car?

Fukuichi: Our teams in Europe, America, and Asia often simultaneously on a project, competing each other to produce the design. The Aygo and the Yaris, for grew out of competitions. They up being designed out of the European

Bouzige: ED is a platform for information to Toyota’s European designs, but designs around the world. We the information with the entire For three months of the year the have some downtime work, so we travel throughout to gather information about and wider sociological tidbits all kinds of places.

We go to a lot of trade in London, Sweden, Copenhagen, on anything from furniture and design, through aeronautics and all the way to dog shows. Yes, dogs. are six million in France alone—we to understand how they fit into our lives and demands.

Some say the A8 is the ultimate luxury sedan. Do you see car as a role model? Renault is a real design innovator—take the Does Toyota have to in that space to succeed in

Fukuichi: All these models are and stimulating for Toyota. I don’t to comment on the work of others, but I can say is that I feel that of these carmakers is true to its own and style.

Korean and other Asian makers are also ramping up in and Honda now have design in Frankfurt. How do you see that competition What will set one auto apart from the others?

They are a threat. They’ve producing good quality for some time, and now they are more and more on design. In the threat from the Korean is one of the main reasons why we came up the J-Factor strategy—in order to ourselves. But still, I think many European consumers yet know or don’t yet care the difference between Korean and companies. That’s what we to change.

Toyota CS&S
Toyota CS&S

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