On May 18, Toyota Motor North America (TMNA) revealed two all-new models for its market, ‘Sienna’ and ‘Venza’ (dubbed Harrier in Japanese market), Toyota’s biggest launches in North America this year. Due to the postponement of the New York Auto Show caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, Toyota Motor North America’s Product Communication team made the decision to showcase the newest vehicles in their line-up using online video streaming. The filming for the launch video took place at both TMNA headquarters in Plano and the ‘home’ of one of the starring executives in Texas. Here at Toyota Times, the editorial team wanted to tell the inside story, bringing an exclusive behind-the-scenes video of the making of the online launch, including how they came up with the idea to comply with the ‘Stay-home Order’.
At an April press conference by the four industry associations involved in automobile manufacturing in Japan, Toyota President Akio Toyoda stated the following:
What we can do now are the following three things:
1) Thank healthcare workers and their families and provide any support we can
2) Keep doing business, whatever we can, to keep the economy running and
3) Make preparations to lead by becoming the number one driver of the economy for when spring finally comes.
The message was not only intended for those team members based in Japan, but also all team members globally, including those in North America. They thought: “Despite the continuing curfew, we want to change our approach somehow to convey these new vehicles’ information using whatever it takes to those who are eagerly waiting. Providing attractive vehicles like these will contribute to a quicker economic recovery.” With thoughts on their mind, they were bustling about preparing to execute ‘Plan B’, their alternative plan in place of the New York Auto Show.
The official postponement of the New York Auto Show was announced on March 10. Immediately, the TMNA team considered an alternative plan; however, with COVID-19 continuing to spread rapidly, there appeared to be no other prospect of physically revealing the new products. Add to that the challenges of curfews. On the other hand, there was a sales plan for the new vehicles and a deadline. While carefully considering their options in the difficult situation, the decision was made to set the shooting date for an ‘online reveal’ in May.
The all-new Sienna portion was shot at TMNA’s headquarters in Plano, and was hosted by Bob Carter, Executive Vice President of Sales. Filming at TMNA headquarters was able to happen in an empty atmosphere since all employees were working from home. For the Venza, the filming took place at the home of Jack Hollis, Group Vice President and General Manager of Toyota Division. The all-new Venza was parked and covered in front of the garage, where Hollis unveiled the vehicle.
“It's been pretty amazing. I literally just see my entire neighborhood turned into a video shoot studio, a little movie set. It has been really kind of fun. to actually film and kind of do something to launch this product where they can watch it on their own, it may give them a chance to kind of go a little deeper into our messages,” Hollis said with a broad smile on his face.
Amid the restrictions caused by a ‘Stay home’ situation, the new product reveal idea to do it ‘From home’ was special. While various ideas had been proposed, the team was finally able to settle on one that resonated.
On the online launch plans, one team member in Corporate Communications at TMNA said, “I think that this has really caused us to become a lot more flexible very quickly. And we've had multiple versions of this plan on how to launch these vehicles. So in the future, anything's game, whether it's at a traditional auto show or an event, a virtual launch like this, we'll really be able to be flexible and innovate in the process of how we launch vehicles going forward.”
In a country as vast as America, having more online launches could prove to be a golden opportunity to allow Toyota to connect with even more people. This is a trend of a ‘new normal’ that Toyota Times will keep a close eye on going forward.