Toyota Aims for Better Design

Toyota is seeking to reinvent itself after a disastrous few years when trade collapsed due to the global financial crisis and Toyota experienced its greatest ever loss, production was impeded after the earthquake and tsunami in Tōhoku in 2011, and the company mounted the world’s largest recall campaign in 2009 which blemished the company’s once-immaculate safety record.

One solution

For decades, Toyota emphasized its staid reliability, which is oft-mentioned by, a leading source of automotive news. In 2012, however, it announced that it wanted to be one of the cool kids. The largest automaker in Japan said it would re-jig its development system to grant engineers greater freedom to experiment with designs that were bolder and more daring. Chief executive, Akio Toyoda, the grandson of the company’s founder, declared, “We want to take more risks.”

Previously, as many as 100 executives could review design changes, but the process is no longer democratic, and less executives are now involved. More research and development work will be devolved to teams in emerging economy nations so that models can be tailored to local needs. Engineers will be constrained by pressure to reduce costs by employ standard parts.

The Camry – a boring, beige appliance

The Camry is an eminently sensible means of obtaining groceries and the best-selling car in North America, but its design has long been mocked. A 2011 article by Motor Trend magazine stated that terms such as “boring,” “appliance,” and “beige” were often used to describe it. Tokuo Fukuichi, who became Toyota’s chief designer in 2011, said this was the result of a consensus-driven process that attempted to please everybody but consequently excited nobody. Fukuichi said that if people are to be passionate about a design, some people are going to hate it. He knows of what he speaks, having designed the first generation Previa – the “egg van” – which is among Toyota’s most love-it-or-hate-it vehicles.

The Kluger is now more masculine

toyota kluger

One example that shows that Toyota is achieving its goal is the Kluger, which is sold in the United States as the Highlander. It was a favorite of busy mothers but was made more masculine to increase its appeal to males. It’s now longer and marginally wider than its predecessor and features improved aerodynamics, sculptured side-door panels, and a progressive silhouette. Toyota hopes that this auto’s increased sophistication and dynamism will tilt the Kluger’s balance more to yang than yin, and Toyota Kluger reviews will attest to its success in this venture.

Designer were given free reign with the Avalon

Then, there is the Avalon, for which U.S. designers were given free rein in its re-styling. Reviewers acknowledged that wraparound taillights and a trapezoidal grille had changed the way the vehicle feels to a great degree. When Toyoda first clapped eyes on the revised vehicle, he is said to have exclaimed, “Cool! Don’t change a thing.”

And, finally…

Toyota’s engineering and production was once driven by kaizen, the making of continual, incremental improvements rather than radical changes. Fukuichi said that this could produce a fashion model but not an actress who was unforgettable even if her figure were less attractive and her face unusual.

When asked if Toyota’s design process could soon emulate that of Apple, which is famed for eschewing market research and going with its designers’ tastes, Toyoda said his company was “headed more in that direction” and needed to be “more visionary.”


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Car Review: 2013 Toyota Avalon XLE Touring


A moulin rouge mica 2013 Toyota Avalon XLE Touring is a great sight on a cool spring day in the Midwest. Toyota has dramatically altered the chemistry of Avalon’s DNA creating, a new potent and persuasive sedan that helps shift the product’s generational appeal while symbolizing Toyota’s exciting new design and product direction for future sedans. Our test model verified this just from first impressions.


As good as the previous Avalon was, the new 2013 model is a much more refined and expressive car, starting with the exterior. For the mission of re-positioning the Avalon brand and shifting consumer perception of the sedan, Toyota fashioned an exterior that offers a much more athletic expression in sheet metal. The new Avalon sedan clearly represents a dramatic styling departure from previous Avalon models. The 2013 Avalon’s elegant and athletic design offers a longer flowing roofline, creating a more appealing side silhouette with a lower vehicle beltline that suggests a sense of motion with a road holding stance. Its chiseled shoulder line sculpted into side sheet metal starts over the front wheels and creates a strong, fluid body side design cue, adding to its athletic stance. The new Avalon exterior is designed to communicate a greater sense of performance and agility to better match the car’s vastly enhanced dynamic capability.

Compared to the 2012 model, the new Avalon offers more compact and athletic exterior dimensions, and with a greater styling sophistication that does not sacrifice interior comfort. The vehicle’s stance has also been improved with more taut and compact exterior dimensions. Overall height has been reduced by 0.98 inch (25 mm), while the overhangs have been reduced by 0.59 inch (15 mm) at the front and 1.77 inches (45 mm) at the rear. Filling the wheel well, the gap between the body and the tires has been reduced by 0.27 inch (7 mm) compared to the previous Avalon model. The new Avalon’s visual stance has been further enhanced by 1.29-inch (33 mm) reduction in width of the rear side rails surrounding the rear glass to tighten the proportions of the greenhouse. Vehicle tread has been increased by 0.39 inch (10 mm) at the front and 0.59 inch (15 mm) at the rear, widening the wheel placement underneath the more athletic Avalon body. Our test model sported heated outside mirrors with turn signals, power tilt and slide moon roof, dual chrome tipped exhaust and quadrabeam headlights with auto on/off.

A stronger, more expressive front-fascia design with larger grille opening creates an aggressive appearance while enhancing cooling air flow and pedestrian impact protection. The new Avalon’s exterior turn signal indicators have been located at the lower section of the front bumper to contribute to the slim and sleek appearance. The 2013 Avalon’s sleek and sculpted rear tail lights utilize LED lamps to help ensure visibility and reduce the gap of unlit dark area between the trunk and rear quarter panel.

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