The main stage at Toyota’s 2024 Tokyo Auto Salon booth is a strange place to find a Suzuki. Or a Yamaha. But this year Toyota surprised attendees with a showcase of seemingly unrelated cars. In lieu of a formal press conference, Toyota instead chose to offer New Year Greetings from “Morizo” the racing alter ego of retired president Akio Toyoda, who used the opportunity to display some of his favorite cars.
“Last year I stepped down as president of Toyota Motor Corporation and chairman of the Japan Automobile Manufacturers Association. I think I was finally able to return to being a normal old man who loves cars. I had always dreamed of the day when I could be like this.” Toyoda said. It may seem odd for Toyota to let a retired CEO take the stage, but Toyoda is holds a chairman position on the board and is one of Japan’s most public and well-respected businessmen. Also, his name is still on all the buildings.
In order to keep his identity a secret, Toyoda used to enter road race and rally events under the pseudonym Morizo as to not draw attention. The secret is out these days, so among the cars present was a more hard-core version of the already hard-core GR Corolla, the Morizo Edition. The stripped-down track version of the GR Corolla lacks rear seats, window regulators and speakers in the rear doors, and the rear wiper. The roof is made of forged carbon fiber and the body has nearly 350 extra spot welds. The suspension is improved with monotube shocks and the engine produces an extra 22 lb-ft of torque.
Toyoda called the GR Corolla and iQ GRMN his “trusted partners”. Only iQ GRMNs were ever built, but it’s probably pretty easy to skip the wait list if you’re president. It features upgraded suspension, brakes, and exhaust. Niceties include aluminum pedals and a tachometer. Toyoda’s iQ GRMN looks to have even further modifications in the wheels and body kit.
The Yamaha Vino is a surprise, but Morizo reportedly uses the scooter for short distance trips. We’d guess it makes a good pit bike for Morizo-san as well. The Jimny was purchased used by Toyoda, and he reportedly drives it in the countryside. We can’t blame him, as it’s one of the best off-roaders money can buy. There were even specks of dried mud on the underside.
Toyoda also showed off a new GRMN version of the new Century SUV. This isn’t the first time Toyoda has created his own performance variant of the Century, but we have to wonder how well a 4,500-pound SUV takes to the modifications.
Toyoda also took the opportunity to reaffirm his love for combustion engines. He still believes engines can be cleaned up and that Toyota should offer a multi-pronged solution that includes ICE, hydrogen, and electric. The goal should be carbon neutrality, he emphasized, not simply a switch to EVs.
This Auto Salon display isn’t the first time Toyoda has sung the praises of non-Toyota products. Last September he was seen giving the thumbs up on a rally course after pulling up in a Honda HR-V. He’s also been lobbying for Subaru and Mitsubishi to get back in to rallying. Back in 2012 when he became chairman of the Japan Auto Manufacturers Association, he rattled off a list of his favorite cars from rival companies. We know Toyoda is a petrolhead through and through, but his willingness to say some good words about other carmakers makes him a charming rarity among executives.