Opinion

"The world’s number one vehicle producer needs the world’s number one designer"

Toyota is celebrating 50 successful years in Britain, but columnist Mike Rutherford thinks it needs some new blood

Toyota OPINION

Calm and cautious Toyota has a better sense of humour than you might give it credit for. This is a company that’s quietly having a laugh at the expense of its biggest international rivals, VW and GM; lesser domestic enemies, Nissan and Honda; plus neighbouring Korean upstarts, Kia and Hyundai.

Most of these competitors are louder, bolder and cockier. But in terms of annual vehicle production, sales, profits and market value, they lose and Toyota wins. It is the undisputed world champion of motor manufacturing.

Also, it’s not doing bad in Blighty. Toyota GB is celebrating 50 successful years here, 25 of them building Toyotas at Burnaston. Its dealers are rated in the top two of our Driver Power survey. The cars get five-year warranties that most Japanese makers refuse to offer. Wonder why?

• "The London Motor Show will be a sell-out success"

True, Toyota has adopted an ultra-cautious ‘born to be mild’ approach to design over the decades. But it’s had its moments. The MR2 Mk1 (most underestimated modestly priced car I’ve owned) in the 1980s, the game-changing Prius hybrid in the late 1990s, the brilliant FJ Cruiser in the 2000s and the Mirai fuel-cell car in the mid-2010s are motoring milestones.

Equally important is that, unlike arch-rival Nissan, Toyota hasn’t backed the farm on 100 per cent electric family cars which sell slowly. And despite the fact that it’s almost 30 years since I first visited Japan to travel in fully functional autonomous Toyotas, the company is cautious rather than ecstatic about self-driving cars for the masses. And rightly so.

• "Turn Britain's defunct rail routes into new roads with cycle lanes"

Toyota doesn’t get everything right. Some of its designs have been plain wrong, as was its daft dabble into Formula One, plus its role as a serial recaller of vehicles in recent years. But that was then, this is now, and Toyota’s looking towards a future where I predict it will retain its number one status. Yet I’d have even more confidence if it acquired a more daring approach to the physical appearance of its cars.

This can easily be achieved – by giving Ikuo Maeda, Mazda’s global design chief in Hiroshima, the same job title, together with a healthy pay rise, plus a new box of crayons at Toyota’s studio in Tokyo. The world’s number one vehicle producer needs the world’s number one designer. Toyota’s the company. Maeda’s the man.

Does Toyota need to employ a new head designer? Join the debate in the comments section below...

 

 

 

Recommended

Best Japanese modern classic cars 2022
Best Japanese modern classics - header image
Modern classics

Best Japanese modern classic cars 2022

From rally car brawlers to elegant luxury limos, Japan is the source of some quirky and hugely desirable modern classic cars
24 May 2022
Future classics 2022: car investments that could make you money
Future classics - header image
Best cars & vans

Future classics 2022: car investments that could make you money

Identifying future classic cars is a tricky but potentially lucrative business, here are our future classic recommendations
23 May 2022
'Brands will need new tricks to make electric cars affordable'
Toyota opinion
Toyota

'Brands will need new tricks to make electric cars affordable'

John McIlroy thinks manufacturers will use the electric car rollout to change the buying process
2 Mar 2022
Toyota and Yamaha are working on a hydrogen-powered V8 engine
Yamaha V8
Toyota

Toyota and Yamaha are working on a hydrogen-powered V8 engine

Modified version of the 5.0-litre unit found in the Lexus RC F will produce 444bhp – all without using a drop of petrol
18 Feb 2022

Most Popular

EU demands speed limiters on all new cars from next week: know the rules and how they work
speed limiters
News

EU demands speed limiters on all new cars from next week: know the rules and how they work

Car industry body calls for UK government to adopt the new measures, but we’ll probably get them anyway…
29 Jun 2022
New Nissan Ariya 2022 review
Nissan Ariya - front
Road tests

New Nissan Ariya 2022 review

Nissan is looking to reestablish its electric car credentials with the new Ariya and rivals should be worried
30 Jun 2022
Best car manufacturers 2022
Best car manufacturers header
News

Best car manufacturers 2022

We reveal the UK’s best car brands based on the feedback from car owners who took our 2022 Driver Power survey...
29 Jun 2022