Friday, December 9, 2011

Akio Toyoda: Upping the Fun Factor

In a previous blog post, I wrote about how the disastrous earthquakes that struck Japan back in March affected Toyota dealers worldwide. Production was slowed immensely in order to recover from the damage done. In turn, inventory amongst Toyota dealerships saw a very noticeable decline. At one point, CEO Akio Toyoda was concerned, stating "...The earthquake happened and I was afraid we wouldn't be able to produce any cars until next year. And then just when we had recovered from that, we had the Thailand floods."

Fortunately, Toyota did make a recovery. Factories returned to 100% operating efficiency much sooner than planned, and Toyota will still produce roughly 7.8 million vehicles for the 2011 year. Dealer lots across the United States have gradually begun to fill up again with the Camry, Prius, and other models.

Now, Mr. Toyoda wants to move on past the disasters and up the excitement factor for the brand. Being an avid racer (Toyoda races under the pseudonym "Morizo" as part of the Gazoo Racing organization in Japan) he is very vocal with his opinions on Toyota vehicles, and believes performance is an important factor in one's enjoyment of driving. So much so that he is no stranger to dishing out criticism and feedback to his engineers. Toyoda recently made a few statements at the Tokyo Motor Show about the future of Toyota, touching on this notion. "Fun to drive was a slogan we had in the mid-'80s", he stated. "Now we have a new slogan- 'Fun to drive again'".

Toyota CEO Akio Toyoda

After making the announcement, he unveiled the Scion FR-S, the new sports car being developed jointly between Toyota and Subaru. Featuring 200 horsepower, a 6 speed manual or automatic transmission, rear wheel drive, and a low weight of around 2,960 pounds, the FR-S is designed to get car fanatics pumped. After seeing the photos, we agree!

Scion FR-S

Along with the FR-S, a futuristic looking vehicle, the Fun-Vii, was introduced. It's quite possibly the strangest (and yet sleekest) car we've ever seen. The exterior is fully customizable, akin to a giant video display screen. Functionality is also being worked on that will allow the Fun-Vii to connect with other surrounding vehicles and detect danger or road hazards in advance.


While the Fun-Vii is currently a concept with no known release date, the FR-S is set to debut next year. What do you think of Toyota's latest additions? Does Toyota need more "fun" vehicles like these, or should they continue focusing on green technology (such as the Prius line)?

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