Toyota has used the 2011 Tokyo motor show and the debut of its 2012 Toyota 86 sports car to promise that its cars will become more enjoyable to drive.
The company’s boss, Akio Toyoda, also said in his speech that Toyota, the world’s leading maker of hybrid vehicles, wanted to preserve the future of conventional internal combustion engines.
Toyota is well renowned for its reliability and build quality, but the brand has also struggled to attract keener drivers with its products.
Toyoda, a known driving enthusiast himself, says he wants to change the perception that its cars aren’t exciting to drive – as well as re-engaging the younger generation that have become more preoccupied with social technology such as smartphones rather than cars.
“Toyota adopted the catchphrase ‘Fun to drive’ in the mid-1980s,” says Toyoda. “Today it is said that young people have very little interest in cars as there are much more interesting things, and, as an automobile maker, I find this quite frustrating.
“It is for this reason that we are committed to making cars that will evoke this feeling of ‘Fun to drive’ again. This is Toyota’s declaration.”
Even a sports car has been a notable omission from Toyota’s line-up since it discontinued the Celica coupe and MR2 Spyder a few years ago.
The new Toyota 86, a virtually identical twin to the equally new Subaru BRZ, fills one much-needed gap in its line-up.
With rear-wheel drive, a relatively low 1220kg kerb weight and a chassis designed for balanced handling, the 86 promises to provide the kind of thrills not found in any current Toyota.
Toyota says it wants all of its future models to deliver a more engaging drive, however.
“I hope that motor vehicles will continue to provide dreams and inspiration to people for all eras,” said Toyoda. “I believe that if it is not fun, it is not a car.
“To put it another way, cars must have an emotional presence that inspires drivers to enjoy their freedom. I truly believe that no matter how advanced cars become, it is important to retain this feeling.”
Toyota has led the way in hybrid car development, including the world’s best-selling petrol-electric car, the Prius, but the company says the future of motoring will not necessarily be a choice of only hybrids or battery electric cars.
“Personally, I love the smell of gasoline and the sound of an engine,” says Toyoda, “so I hope that this type of vehicle never disappears.
“I do not believe that the debate concerning future motor vehicles will be a choice between electric vehicles or plug-in hybrid vehicles.
“What is necessary is the decision by consumers, but it is unlikely that there will be only one choice. I believe that various types vehicles will be uses for different applications through maximising the advantages of their individual strengths.”