Today is Toyota CEO Akio Toyoda’s 65th birthday. So, first of all, happy birthday, Toyoda-san! It’s a notable age, because in the US it was once the traditional age at which one receives a gold watch and rides off into retirement. Toyoda, however, shows no sign of quitting as head of one of the largest companies in the world. Whatever you believe about Toyota’s cars, it’s one of the most successful corporations in history.
Not only that, but due to its size and strength, Toyota basically defines segments, indirectly sets the prices of materials, and has an outsized say in the direction of the industry. Toyoda himself is also head of the Japan Auto Manufacturer’s Association, which oversees the Tokyo Motor Show, negotiates government policies that affect technology and trade, and affects the livelihoods and careers of about 8 percent of Japan’s working population. It’s a position of tremendous power, and as close as you can get to being a king in modern times. So…
What would you do if you were Akio Toyoda?
The most entertaining comment by next Monday will receive a prize. Scroll down to see the winner of last week’s QotW, “How do you feel about car investors and flippers?”
We had excellently argued answers on both sides of the flipper coin. On the pro side, those like Crown, Jim Klein, and Scotty G and say that they are adding value and bringing out cars that would otherwise be sitting in a barn or scrapped. Perhaps Chase said it best, asking us to “embrace the transition from cheap commuter cars to now iconic classics.”
On the other side, speedie offered a humorous analogy to a show dog owner. Negishi no Keibajo pointed out that many flippers are not truly part of the community. However, the winner this week was George F, who offered some eye-opening insights.
If you buy a car, fix it up a little and sell it, that’s fine. Value added.
What I think this question is asking is people harassing an old lady to sell a family car for a song, then turning it around and putting it on Bring a Trailer and selling it for many thousands more without doing a damn thing.
There are even sneakier tricks than that. People with enough money and time buy a car, hype it up on social media and YouTube by saying it’s their childhood dream car and why it’s so special, only to drive prices up just so they can sell it right after.
For the ultra rich, you can even buy a barn full of undervalued and unknown to the masses JDM cars on the cheap, hype one of them up at high-end Sotheby’s style auctions, set the price for a model never before sold in the U.S., or even have a friend bid top dollar, and then unload the rest you’ve hoarded.
There are cons the average enthusiast who’s just shopping on Craigslist doesn’t even know about, because they are not rich.
Omedetou, your comment has earned you a set of decals from the JNC Shop!
Design my own straight 6 for the Supra,…
To preserve my own dignity
Put the Crown Kluger and the Crown Vellfire concepts into production alongside the Crown saloon. Why? To secure government contracts and make the Crown badge it’s own sub-brand like Lexus. The Crown Kluger would be also assembled under license with GM to allow it to compete with the Ford Explorer Interceptor in the Police fleet market. As for the Vellfire, it would be assembled in both Japan and North America to allow entry to Asian and the North American markets. With the way Crossovers are taking over our roads, a MPV with luxury touches will certainly appeal to certain buyers if you can attach a certain ere of mystery. Like say…..allowing a few to be loaned to a few celebrities as a marketing ploy?
But not Tiger Woods. Unless he has taken some more driving lessons.
Develop a new engine family, in house, that comprised an inline 6 and 4 to power performance cars, including the GT86(or whatever goofy name they will give it next), the Supra, and a “hot hatch” version of the Corolla that is a real performance version, and not just some tacky spoilers, tape stripes and decals, and overly busy wheels tacked on to a regular boring Corolla with an “S” badge on it.
Oh and come up with a name for your racing/performance activities that doesn’t sound like it belongs in a Dr. Seuss book.
what would you do if you were Akio?
prepare a sufficiently capable and enthusiastic successor like me with a high technical and engineering profile who can defend the principles of the brand and still have a niche for the enthusiastic side of the products, do not forget that cars must generate passion and not only be one more household appliance. Mazda understands this essence very well, defends it and differentiates it from the rest.
Perhaps his approach is good and possibly his replacement will emerge from there? we won’t know yet. if at least his legacy and his successor have a bit of that essence it would be very good
Ohhh wait.. make Daniel Herrero from Toyota Argentina tour succesor, that`s the dude.
And also gazoo racing latín american president.
If you invite the president himself to the country and share the same principles?
Bring back the MR2, make this beast awesome and w/combustible engine, make it around $28K and under 2600 lbs. Make it the real answer to everything. Its not going to solve the world’s problems but the MR2 is so awesome. I still have my 86 MKI that my family has had since new.
What would I do if I were in Akio’s shoes?
Hmmm… This is tricky as he is doing a lot of what I would do already. He’s trying his damndest to keep sports cars alive (not just by building them, but by making them a viable business case).
I think I would rush to get the Corolla hot-hatch to market, as I think the window where you could launch it is rapidly shrinking. I would also bite the bullet and accept that although my concerns about electric cars being too expensive right now, and being constructed using materials we don’t have an adequate supply of, are correct, people still want them. Even a lot of the people buying gas cars because of the problems mentioned. So, I would take advantage of the tricks available (like the very strong relationships with Tesla and Panasonic), and put together a new electric trio of cars. All styled by someone other than Toyota’s in-house team (sorry guys, you’re just not good enough). I’d offer an entry-level C class, a mid-size D class, and a full-on luxubarge. And I’d call them Corolla, Crown, and Century. (I’d rather use Corona than Corolla, but that’s not possible at this time) I’d do what Toyota does best and take everyone to the cleaners on quality control and real-world practicality, and keep offering the old cars as the “Corolla Legacy” and “Century Legacy” for as long as buyers are interested.
Then I’d get to work on building an electric sports car to rival a 911, call it the Toyota GT, and dare the other companies to try doing it themselves.
If I were him, I would put a stop to this nonsense.
Firstly I’d start a limited run of 2000GT continuation models. Perhaps 83 of them, one for each year of the company being around. Maybe make each one be related to a specific event in Toyota history such as race wins or significant people who worked for/with the company.
Next I’d start the development of a Lexus LFA successor. Something to scare the low volume hypercar makers with.
I’d invest in more retro styled electric cars, similar to what Honda did with the Honda e. With the future of Kei cars in doubt Japan will need smaller cars to fill the gap. Can you imagine a modern day re-imagining of the Corona RT40 that’s electric powered? Or what about an electric Kei van styled on the H10 HiAce?
I seem to recall the Toyota i-REAL being very cool when I saw it shown on TV over a decade ago. Look at bringing that type of single or twin occupant electric vehicle to market.
And finally I’d look for new ways to get Toyota involved in motorsports. As I’m not a Nascar fan, with no more Toyota in F1 the only time I really get to enjoy seeing Toyota in motorsports is in endurance races like Le Mans. Seeing a vehicle I could go out and buy being raced on TV or in person at the track would make me a lot more invested in the brand.
They compete un WRC with the Yaris. Not Bad.
In Argentina also compete in Súper TC2000 and Top Race with Toyota Gazoo Racing
I’d commission a limited production run of Toyota’s greatest hits, but with modern tech, including fully electric drivetrains. All the exterior body parts would be interchangeable with the original cars, same dimensions, etc, but integrating modern construction methods to make them safer, such as breakaway flip-up headlights that use soft urethane instead of metal panels, modern crumple zones, emergency braking assist, modern high-tensile steel, etc. Lighting would also be brought up to spec with LEDs, laser headlights, etc, and modern in-car entertainment and comfort items like cruise control with stop and go assist and heated seats would be the norm. The battery packs would be designed to be modular and replaceable, so as tech improves, you can upgrade your batteries for longer range, lighter weight, etc. Same with the in car entertainment. Anything that would date the car in the future would be able to be upgraded to keep the otherwise classic design relevant.
The first vehicles chosen for these electric classics would be the following:
If these were successful, the A70 Supra, SW20 MR2, TE27 Corolla, AW11 MR2 and ST205 Celica GT-Four would follow.
These are cars where demand for the originals far outstrips supply, and would be a perfect way to blend the coolness of vintage with the performance and efficiency of electric.
In addition, by having the body and many interior parts interchangeable with the originals, it would make restorations of those classics much easier, and keep them on the road.
They would be able to be ordered in any color combination the originals were offered in or with a replica of a race livery if the car had one (Minolta Group A A70 Supra, please). By using software with the electric drivetrain, you could select performance and sound to match various engine options or swaps, or go completely silent. Want to know what a 2000GT with a 2JZ swap feels like? A 20v AE86? Want to know what it feels like to drive a WRC-outlawed GT-Four? Select it from the menu and the performance and sounds will match with your selection. Want to shift your own gears? The software can replicate that with a force feedback shifter and clutch pedal.
With more governments planning on putting restrictions in place around fossil-fueled cars, we need to figure out how to bring the fun of JNC’s into the future. And with electric power and brand-new construction, but indistinguishable on the outside from the originals, we can put Japanese classics into the hands of many excited new owners that will able to drive them for many years to come.
Fire everyone, hire Ex-Mazda engineers, take a page from the New Nissan marketing campaign, and go head-to-head against Mazda.
An electric 2000GT??? Pffffftttt… You gotta be kidding me.
Do you electric heads have no soul?
And just where is all the electricity going to come from to charge all these overgrown slot cars that you seem to want everyone to be in? Hmmmm? Ever given that any consideration?
I have plenty of soul, just know that the times are changing, and it’s important to figure out how to surf the next wave, not just the old one. Also, where the electricity is going to come from is not really a problem. The solutions are on the table, and rolling out as we type…
You mean all those new electrical generating stations I don’t see being built? Get a grip. You can’t solar or wind power your way to the electric mobility future you want. And we don’t have the grid to supply all those non existent electrons to all the new charging stations and peoples homes to handle the load of a completely electric transport system.
Electricity isn’t pixie dust or magic that comes out of a socket on the wall. Simple wishing it will happen is putting the cart way before the horse.
I’m not wishing it to happen, I’m looking at the fact that G7 governments are comfortable adding a lot more nuclear powerplants to the mix. Electric cars aren’t the only thing needing more juice, and I don’t know of any government which believes that solar and wind power are going to cover demand.
Have you driven a good handling electric car hard yet? They are loads of fun, and have their own form of soul. The whine from an electric motor under full acceleration can be very fun and addicting, and is very much it’s own thing.
As for where to get the power? The solar array on our roof gives us all the power for charging my wife’s car just fine, and her car can keep up with my 480hp twin-turbo six with no effort, while paying virtually nothing for energy (our panel payments cost less than our pre-electric car electricity bill) compared to me having to fill up with premium at almost $5 per gallon.
With internal combustion engines all heading towards rev-hanging economy-focused forced induction and small displacement, even gas engines no longer have the soul they used to.
There were lots of people during Japan’s bubble era that shunned the modern twin cam twin turbo motors because they didn’t have the same “soul” as a set of Mikunis.
Electric cars don’t have to be a political thing. Some of us see them as simply the next new technology in making cars fast and fun, like fuel injection, turbo charging, etc.
I’d license certain companies to manufacture reproduction body shells for classic cars. Rust eating away at your Tacoma? Why spend hundreds of hours repairing it when you could just drop $10K and buy a brand new cab with zero issues? Want to toss a 2UR-FSE into a 2000GT? Don’t ruin an original – build a replica!
License your IP, dagnamit!
With time growing short for gas powered cars as countries with big purchasing power demand electric vehicles, I would focus on making a car to crown more than 100 years of gas-powered history.
Something lightweight, cheap, utterly raw, and mechanical. Simple to work on, easy and affordable to maintain for generations to come. Ignore 0-60 times, ignore horsepower, ignore the marketing department. Safety shouldn’t come before visibility. Focus on the metric that matters: Smiles. Just sitting in it should put a smile on your face. Interacting with the buttons, dials, and levers should put a smile on your face. Racing it and working on it should put a smile on your face.
Well… Make the last generation con Crown Century with V12 and híbrid drivetrain. The Best of the Best to put the últimate líne, the final moment in history of what was the ICE .
Sale worldwide, let the people know the last car of their species, the Best craftmanship of your japanese artisans.
If I were Akio Toyoda? I’d make the Supra a parts-bin special to utilize in-house parts while working on something spicy for it. That might have silenced the haters.
Or maybe bring back the HiAce to the one-box van segment as opposed to its current looks.
Toyota under his stewardship needs to take the carbon free trend and mandate seriously, and starts to transform the company into the next phase. As what we know in public, this company he now runs has no serious electric vehicle in the next five years. More it again under him stopped its joint venture with Tesla and sold its shares. In reality it could stick around being it is not short of money then and now, and offered its expertise on vehicle. I understand Musk and Toyoda have their own ego. But at this time they might have something to learn each other.
To quote Michael Dell when he was ask a similar question about what he would recommend to do with Apple back in 1997. “…sell the company and give the money back to the shareholders”.
Seriously I would strongly recommend they bring more pure electric vehicles to the market. Hybrids are on the way out and hydrogen will never take hold for many different reasons.
Bring back the Toyota Carina nameplate!
The car industry is at a point of transition; some giants will reinvent themselves successfully, others will shrink into irrelevance. Toyota has many advantages, being trusted and respected at home and worldwide, as well as having huge resources and many smart and dedicated staff. But like all car companies they face stiff challenges.
The first is reconciling personal mobility with the demand for sustainability. Frankly, it’s now clear that 95% of future cars will be propelled by electric motors, and Toyota is nowhere. Right away I would get a pure-electric Prius out, then I’d sit down and plan a range of BEV saloons, crossovers and minivans; perhaps with a range-extending petrol engine in some models. Lexus needs to compete head-on with Tesla. Fuel Cells *might* become useful; lighter solid-state batteries *may* help in future, but the world is going electric now and Toyota isn’t even in the game. The current hybrids are great, but need to sit alongside full electric models to sustain Toyota’s position.
The second challenge is maintaining the enjoyment of driving in this new world. Toyota’s actually done quite well at this, with the trio of GT86, GR Yaris and Supra taking advantage of the regulatory space opened up by low-emission hybrids. But it’s not perfect. Right away, I’d order manual gearboxes to be fitted to both Supra variants. I’d also commission a more focused ‘GRMN Supra’, with a bit less weight, more precise wheel location and control and better steering feel, to finally deliver on the promise of this 370hp rear-drive sports car. I’d start development on a higher-revving, higher power naturally aspirated variant of the upcoming GR86. And I’d look again at homologating the smash-hit GR Yaris for North America.
Medium term there’s the Mazda partnership to work with – Toyota may not be foolhardy enough to design an entire new inline six engine and build a factory for it, but since Mazda are, that’s an opportunity to create some special cars together and get the best out of it. A Gen-6 Supra and a new IS300, for starters.
In the longer term there’s the question of making even fun cars zero-carbon, which probably wants some R&D projects and/or joint ventures looking at power sources, hydrogen ICEs, synthetic fuels, and how to make a BEV fun. Again Mazda should be a strong partner here, as long as their more reckless instincts can be reined in.
There’s all to play for and Toyota has plenty of strong cards, but I think they would be best to start looking forwards and anticipating the fast-arriving future, rather than playing it ‘safe’ and be left behind to dwindle into irrelevance.
Bring back the 2000GT and mass produce it.