Approachable, connected: JP OEMs rise up to the young driver challenge

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With all the hand-wringing about young people losing their interest in cars, a few things should be self-evident: Growing up with smartphones in their toddler’s hands, the younger generations are increasingly horrified by a breakdown of connectivity. The jihad against texting drives this generation into mass transit. Growing up in a culture where everything is free, and where one volunteers instead of going to work, the car must be affordable (or “accessible” as the word is in the biz.) Carmakers are slowly waking up to that challenge.

At the upcoming Tokyo Motor Show, Nissan will show its “Teatro for Dayz” concept. The car is thought to an EV inside of a kei car body. The interesting part is that the instrument panel will be one huge horizontal screen. The screen is a clean canvass where the driver can arrange gauges etc  like widgets on a smartphone.

Actually, the whole car, including seats and door trim, is supposed to be changeable like a smartphone theme. When the car was shown a few weeks ago to a small group of reporters under signed embargoes, project leader Hidemi Sasaki agreed that currently, it is impossible to turn a plastic seat into Alcantara at the push of an on-screen button. Using a screen the width of the car as the dash however definitely is current tech. Sasaki also shrugged-off doubters who said that EVs are not part of the Japanese kei car spec.

With the huge demographic shifts in Europe, Japan, and soon also China, there will be fewer and fewer young people growing into the car buying age group. The huge challenge for the industry are not $100,000+ supercars, but affordable cars that will not disconnect their owner.

Other Japanese makers have different approaches to the same challenge. More on that when their embargoes lift.