Toyota was the first major carmaker to open a design centre in Southern California. Its Calty Design Research facility opened in 1973, and is responsible for giving us the Toyota Celica, Previa MPV and the stunning Lexus LF-LC concept shown at the 2012 Detroit Motor Show.
Opening the Calty studio was seen as an important step in Toyota’s expansion into the US market, allowing the firm to get closer to its customers wants and needs, and allowing them to design more relevant cars.
Today, the facility is run by Kevin Hunter, who gave some interesting insight into how the studio’s role has evolved. His team now spends loads of time reviewing comments, Tweets and blog posts about Toyota and Lexus’s latest designs, so what you say in the comments really can make a difference.
That information is fed into new projects, which are now undertaken with a much greater focus on getting designers and engineers to talk to each other much earlier in new car development than before.
In theory, this means that an all-new car’s design is less compromised by engineering requirements, and that the engineering hard points of the car’s platform can be tweaked to allow the car to look better.
This is being put into practise now. Hunter said: “Lexus has a reputation for quality and reliability, we now need to add drive, engagement and emotion.”
Lexus acknowledges that it has a historical range of competent, quality but dull products, but adds that having a reputation for service and quality is a good base to build on for the future, which Hunter says takes the brand’s designs in a “bolder, more expressive direction.”
He cites the example of Apple in the late 80s and early 90s: “What saved them [Apple] wasn’t just rehiring Steve Jobs, it was appointing [design boss] Jonathan Ives. Design can turn a company around.”
And if the LF-LC is anything to go by, that looks possible, should the concept make production. Let Lexus know what you think in the comments section below…