No steering wheel, BFD. This new Toyota has no wheels at all!

Ponam31 - Picture courtesy Bertel Schmitt

Toyota launches wheel-less model

A friendly phone call (domo arigato, Nic-san) reminded me this morning to get my derriere down to the dock at Tennozu Isle Station in Tokyo, where Toyota launched its latest model. This time, “launch” was to be understood as defined by Merriam-Webster in “to set (a boat or ship) afloat.” Toyota launched a boat, the Ponam 31.

Ponam31 -4- Picture courtesy Bertel Schmitt

Tokyo’s press corps goes cruising

Unbeknownst to many, Toyota is in the pleasure-boat business. As someone whose boat graces the title page of the Offshore Super Series (it’s the black one), I can assure you from bitter experience that pleasure boat building is not a mass market venture, and that the buying is not for the faint of wallet. Toyota so far sold about 20 (twenty) boats this year across all types. They expect to sell about 15 (fifteen) annually of the new 31-footer.

Ponam31 -7- Picture courtesy Bertel Schmitt

Tokyo harbor, near Shinagawa

They try (unsuccessfully) to make up in price what they lack in quantity: A base level Ponam 31 sets you back around $300,000. For that, you get a lot of interesting technology. The Ponam is not made out of fiberglass, like most boats in the class, but from high-strength A5083 aluminum alloy. Power comes from two M1KD-VH marinized, turbocharged and fuelinjected Prado diesel engines, good for 260 horses each. They are mated to two Yanmar ZT370 sterndrives with counter-rotating dual props.

A scale model, but not a model of scale

A scale model, but not a model of scale

Toyota quietly sells many of those marine engines. Many, as understood in the pleasure-boat context. Each year, more than 1,000 inboard diesels are sold.

Toyota’s latest wheel-less model comes with many amenities usually not available in a $300,000 super car, such as a sofa, two beds, a kitchen, a bathroom, and a joystick that allows you to parallel-park at the county dock as if the boat is being pulled-in by giant magnets. Waterfront property not included.

For a more scenic view than a Friday afternoon Tokyo harbor, please peruse this video.

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