Toyota instigates radical changes in a bid to make future models look like “cool cars”
8 December 2011

The styling and design of future Toyotas will undergo a revolution under a plan hatched late last year by company president Akio Toyoda. Toyoda personally asked Tokuo Fukuichi to take over as chief officer in the design group and “short circuit” the company’s current design processes in an attempt to create “much more characterful” future models.

Fukuichi has been the guiding hand behind a new number of Toyota models, including the highly regarded 1989 Previa MPV. Talking to Autocar, Fukuichi said he had been asked to return to Toyota to produce “cool cars” for Toyota and Lexus.

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“They don’t have to have a meaning. They just have to be cool,” he said. “I think that another big hurdle for the future is the styling of our hybrid cars. We need to establish an image of eco and fun, not just eco.”

Fukuichi went on to explain, in his view, the consequences of Toyota’s convoluted design process. “We have a problem in that many of our cars have good proportions but they are not memorable. Too much time is spent on refinement. It is good for quality, but it does not make for character.”

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He said many layers of management were involved in overseeing the design of new vehicles, so the process acted like a filter. “It is like putting a lot of water in at the top, but by the time it has been through all the filters, virtually nothing is left at the end. “The [company] steering committee often doesn’t quite understand the board strategy,” he added. “They hear it but don’t understand it clearly.”

Tokuo Fukuichi did not expand on when the first results of his efforts to revitalise Toyota’s styling would appear, but it is possible that the aggressive nose styling of the new Lexus GS was a late addition under his guidance.

The car is Lexus’s first in its new era of bold design as it moves away from being a “vanilla” brand. The vice president of Lexus Europe, Andy Pfeiffenberger, said, “We’ve been vanilla long enough. If some buyers don’t like the new GS’s design, that means we’re doing the right thing.”

Hilton Holloway

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