No shitstorm this time: Toyota S-FR and Kikai target younger demographics

Looks about ready: Toyota S-FR Concept

Looks about ready: Toyota S-FR Concept

Automakers are slowly waking up to the fact that while the gray-haired generation may have the money, the younger generations have the automakers’ future in their hands. In many important world markets, drastically fewer young people are entering the new-car-buying age groups (40-60). You want to have a leg up on the competition if you want to survive the disastrous distribution conflict of more and more carmakers chasing fewer and fewer new car buyers.

At the Tokyo Motor Show, you will see a few steps in that direction. What Toyota will show is diametrically opposed to what the cross-town competition at Nissan will put on display. Where Nissan will present a smartphone on wheels, Toyota will demo a two-pronged attack at the hearts and minds of junior buyers.

TOYOTA_S-FR_001_crop

The Toyota S-FR Concept is a compact sports-coupe that appears to be just about market ready, except that it was developed by Toyota’s motorsport department, which could dampen its chances for a commercial release. The car is smaller than Toyota’s hachi-roku, it is about the size of a Toyota Vitz. It is, however, not based on the Vitz platform, its designers swore when the car was shown to Tokyo media a few weeks ago. There is a six-speed manual, and a front-midship arrangement of the engine (hard to fit it otherwise.) Apart from that, nothing is known about the motorization.

Toyota needs to have a car that is both exciting and affordable. Its hachi-roku may be much feted in enthusiast sites, but the bulk of the sports car’s buyers skews towards a very ripe age. Porsches share a similar fate. You simply must have the money, along with a loud tock-tock of your biological clock,  to afford such a pricey toy. Speaking of toys …

Calling our inner steampunk

Calling our inner steampunk

In the and-now-for-something-completely-different dept., the Toyota Kikai (Japanese for “machine”) is built to tickle our inner steampunk, and to channel something decidedly un-smartphonish. The Kikai basically turns a car inside-out. The body of the car is a jumble of springs, shocks, suspension arms, ignition wires. The design language is straight out of the lexicon of car mechanics. The car appears to be built from an erector set. The one in the front, two in the back seating arrangement likewise appears to be influenced by a toy, Toyota’s Camatte, a car I had the pleasure to steal. The car has Znug Design written all over it, and as a child of the erector set generation, I love it.

Engine? No idea, but a revived K-Jetronic would not surprise. When a journalist asked how the car is supposed to get through pedestrian protection tests, the designers simply shrugged.

Pedestrian protection? What pedestrian protection?

When Nissan revealed its Teatro for Dayz Concept to a wider audience a few days ago, it created an on-line shitstorm, especially in the more puerile parts of the car blog universe, the very spots the car appears to target. Jalopnik carpet-bombed the poor concept car with invectives, and for good measure, a few days later, there was another bomb run. What is grating the adolescent autowriters was not so much the car itself, but the press release, which indeed is a rather gooey soup of marketing speak. If Nissan would have asked me (which they did not) I would have told them to observe the old rule to never put marketing jargon in an ad, or a press release: “Don’t explain the lure to the fish.” Toyota hopefully will not be faced with so much youthful anger. Its press release, which comes off embargo today, is bland as usual. And that’s how it should be.