Renewing the "Starting Point of Making Ever-Better Cars"--an Account of a Test Drive of the Shimoyama Development Model (Yaris)


"The fundamental approach to making ever better cars is to make ever better compact cars." How the all-new Yaris is a touchstone to better cars.

In the fall of 2019, Toyota announced the world premiere of the all-new Yaris, which went on sale in Japan from mid-February 2020. On the same day that Master Driver and President, Akio Toyoda, test-drove the Corolla Touring at the Toyota Technical Center Shimoyama ahead of its release, he also took time to have a “taste” of the Yaris. What follows is a compilation of Toyoda’s thoughts on the new Yaris, including references to his earlier test drive.

Taking on the “Hierarchy”

"Good car," says Akio as he steps out of the Yaris development model. He smiles as he addresses the camera: "From the moment I got in, I felt Yaris had moved up a class or two."
That was precisely what Akio had wanted from this vehicle.

What image did people have of its predecessor, the Vitz (its launch name in Japan)? Maybe they thought it would be good as a second car perhaps, or maybe they thought of it as an entry-level car?

It might have simply been thought of as a company (or fleet) car. With the new Yaris, however, Akio said that he wants to take on the so-called vehicle "hierarchy."

"A big car means luxury and a small car means cheap."

It is not uncommon that people unconsciously think in this way when considering the size of a vehicle. Akio wants to turn that on its head and instead create a vehicle that makes people think that a small car can still be cool, appealing, and one that they are proud to own. It therefore pleased Akio that he felt the response he did from the car during his test drive – it had come close to what he wanted.

It might surprise you, but Akio chooses to drive a Vitz himself. As the company president and also an avid car enthusiast, many people probably imagine that he drives a luxury or sports car, but he says his everyday go-to vehicle is a compact car, such as the iQ or Vitz. The reason, according to Akio, is that he feels "it's best for a Master Driver to tune his sensors to a compact car." Furthermore, he has previously said that "the compact car is the starting point of making ever-better cars."

When you think about a compact car, what are its requirements? With its small body size, challenges include how to realize safety and a comfortable interior space. The types of things that will help offer more people the joy and freedom of mobility. Additionally, the car should provide its driver and passengers a comfortable drive and ride despite the small engine displacement volume. Above all, just like all vehicle segments, it needs to offer all of these at an affordable price. In other words, Akio feels that it is in the compact car segment of the market that a competitive advantage in car manufacturing becomes clearest. As both a business manager and a Master Driver, Akio deliberately drives small cars to stay tuned to the foundations of Toyota's car manufacturing.

In describing his impression after driving the Yaris, he said: "It's a car that makes you want to drive it a little longer and talk with it a little more." This is a part of the results that have come from raising the standard of the compact car, and the compact car is what Akio calls "the starting point of making ever-better cars." The Yaris is the first outing of the TNGA platform for compact cars and the first new model from the Toyota Compact Car Company.

The new Yaris will be produced at the Iwate Plant of Toyota Motor East Japan. The production of the vehicle in this area is intended to help contribute to the post-disaster recovery and revitalization of the Tohoku region following the Great East Japan Earthquake and Tsunami in 2011, through Toyota-wide efforts coordinated with suppliers and dealers. In looking for a model that symbolizes Toyota's entry into a new, revitalized stage of car manufacturing, the new Yaris may just be it.

Akio Toyoda talks about the Yaris
Taking on the car hierarchy with the Yaris