Toyota's Emboldened Exterior Designers


The third article of our car designer series turns to exteriors, uncovering the story behind Toyota's bold designs.

Let’s start with a pair of photos. Some readers might recognize these classic Toyota cars.

These 1/5 scale models line the entry to the main design building at Toyota’s headquarters in Toyota City, representing Toyota’s history of car making and evoking memories of the times.

What goes into creating such iconic exterior designs? Here, Toyota Times reveals some untold stories of car design.

Who designed the new Crown?

When the new Crown was unveiled in July 2022, its fresh new design was unquestionably the center of attention. Yukiko Yano at MS Design Division, seated on the far right, had the honor of leading the new Crown design team.

When President Akio Toyoda compared the 16th generation Crown to the modernization of Japan, it was clear that the vehicle design had to be innovative and modern.

An elevated ride height is the new Crown’s most striking feature, but how exactly was it designed?

Behind the Crown’s momentous transformation

When the new Crown project began, Yano was involved in researching sedans in pursuit of new ideas to revive the category, which was becoming less popular than SUVs.


Our research started from the president’s desire to keep sedans alive. The team had young and veteran members discussing what makes a good sedan. We came up with the idea of the elevated ride height that found its way into the 16th-generation Crown.

The advantage of a sedan is the comfort that comes from separating the rear cargo space from the interior where passengers sit. This led Yano’s team to question the need to keep sedans low for the sake of comfort.

They ran with the idea that an elevated sedan would be visually more accepted as the number of battery electric vehicles, which usually have an elevated ride height due to under-floor batteries, will increase.

The concept for the new Crown was innovation and challenge. Designers sought to balance a good stance with the refined form of a Crown.


In our research, we initially ignored packaging completely and concentrated on creating a new sedan look. We freely played around with raising the body, giving it a wider tread, and adding larger tires.

Listening to Yano talk excitedly about her work, one realizes that sedans are not necessarily an established, cookie-cutter form. Toyota’s design division is fertile soil for such innovative thinking.

Old and young bring different ideas to the table

Toyota’s design frontlines value diversity inside a team, leveraging the differences in sensibilities, values, and information between generations. Daichi Kimura at Lexus Design Division expanded on how that was expressed within their team.


Since young designers have outstanding ideas, good taste, and the flexibility to utilize new tools, we want to give them opportunities to leverage their strengths.

Compared to our generation, they are more social-media savvy and have been exposed to sophisticated designs worldwide on platforms such as Instagram and Pinterest. I believe both Toyota and Lexus are seeing a trend toward harnessing the ideas of these younger generations.

On the other hand, veteran designers are more knowledgeable about performance and manufacturing constraints, such as the opening required for a front grille, and can come up with many solutions.

For these reasons, new car development project teams include members from a wide age range, enabling older members to serve as mentors to the younger, and their differing ideas will come together to spark something special.