With its push into providing mobility products and new services, Toyota may be keen to be considered more than “only” an automaker. But the world’s biggest carmaker, making some of the world’s best-selling and most reliable automobiles, is still innovating.
In SUV- and crossover-mad America, where Ford is jettisoning most of its passenger cars (except for the Mustang), Toyota executives are doubling down on sedans such as the best-selling mid-size Camry and the 40-year-old Corolla compact, while burnishing the high-end Crown, as demonstrated at its Connected Day preview this week in Japan.
As Toyota notes in a press release,
The future of just-in-time vehicle services and support has arrived in Japan in the form of two well-known Toyota vehicles―the Crown, the volume nameplate’s flagship passenger vehicle, and the Corolla Sport, the all-new hatchback version of the Corolla, launched just this year. Crown and Corolla Sport, as the first generation of “Connected Cars,” come standard with an on-board Data Communication Module (DCM) that links to a Controller Area Network (CAN). By using this hardware, Toyota can provide various connected services to T-Connect subscribers through its proprietary Mobility Service Platform (MSPF), an information infrastructure developed by the company for Connected Cars. Moving forward, Toyota aims to equip most new passenger vehicles in its domestic market with DCM.
“Our goal is to enhance services to customers utilizing vehicle data uploaded to our mobility service platform,” says Shigeki Tomoyama, EVP of Toyota Motor Corporation and president of Toyota’s in-house Connected Company. “Importantly, we will also use connectivity to change the way we work with our dealers across the country.”
What’s new with Toyota’s global lineup of sedans:
Corolla: The best-selling car of all time needs a new generation of buyers at a time when the average Corolla owner in Japan is more than 70 years old. Internet connectivity is one key for Toyota to attract young buyers with the latest iteration of its venerable car.
Toyota sees its redesigned Corolla Sport hatchback as the vanguard of its planned new fleet of fully connected cars. Owners will be able to, for instance, close the windows from a smartphone and ask a virtual assistant for directions. The latest Corolla goes on sale in the U.S. later this year and in Europe in 2019. As its press release notes:
With the advent of a new mobility society, the automotive industry is changing significantly. The new Corolla Sport makes its debut as a first-generation connected car, connecting people, communities, and cars, while offering individually tailored services for safety, security, comfort, and convenience.
The Corolla Sport is not just a means of transportation; it offers a brand new relationship between people and cars. The Corolla Sport, faithful to its name, adopts a sporty design. As a global sports car backed by a total of one million kilometers of test driving in five continents, anyone in the world can enjoy driving it, whatever the environment.
Crown: Toyota revealed a fully redesigned Crown this week—”The new 15th generation Crown, (which) enters the world as Toyota’s first-generation connected car… brings the relationship between cars and people, even the community, to a completely new level.
Services focused on safety, security, comfort, and convenience, such as maintenance notifications based on real-time driving data, will be offered at the most suitable time for each customer… The Crown, Japan’s renowned high-end car, has continued to evolve and push the limits, offering even more advanced driving performance and cutting-edge connected functions.”
This full-size model sticks out in Japan, where large cars are uncommon, and where its fancy features, such as doors that close softly, are too. Toyota’s luxury division sells a similar model, Lexus GS, in North America.
Akira Akiyama, chief engineer in charge of development, commented on the new model: “In inheriting the passion from the early days of the company when the first-generation Crown was born, I wanted the world to see the ‘Japanese brains and brawn’ that went into developing this car. It was with this spirit that we promoted development. I feel the new Crown is a car that will take your breath away in every single aspect including design, driving, and connected technology.”
Camry: Long America’s best-selling passenger car, Camry is becoming an increasingly important model in the U.S. as the traditional Detroit Three edge out of the sedan market. Fully redesigned last year, reviewers continue to swoon over the “fine” balance of Camry in terms of ride, comfort, design, fuel economy and dependability, while Toyota has made decades of refinements as the car has grown larger.
Toyota stopped selling Camry on the Continent in 2004 because of slow sales, but now Camry will return to Europe and replace the Avensis model. And in an interesting twist, the new Camry will be available in diesel-dominant Europe only in a gasoline-powered version with an electric motor, to be imported from Japan beginning in the first quarter of 2019.
Century: It’s hard to believe that the world’s biggest maker of reasonably-priced vehicles even sells a car like the Century, but Toyota is selling its first new fancy limousine in 20 years for about $180,000. That’s more than is required to buy a Mercedes-Maybach S-Class limo, Cnet points out, but Century is still “staggeringly cheaper than either Rolls-Royce sedan.”
Toyota expects to sell 50 units of the big, bulky and stately car per month. It features two individual rear seats straddling a 7-inch touchscreen for controlling vehicle functions as well as an 11.6-inch rear screen for connected entertainment. Leather is an optional interior material, while the car itself generates 425 horsepower with a gasoline-electric hybrid drivetrain.
As noted in a press release, “The Century debuted in 1967, and was released to commemorate the 100th birthday of Sakichi Toyoda, founder of the Toyota Group. For more than 50 years the Century has served as the chauffeur-driven model of choice for Japan and remains a favorite among executives across all industries.
The 3rd generation Century marks its first full redesign in 21 years, inspired by the themes of legacy and evolution. It carries on the tradition of master craftsmanship and high-quality monozukuri (all-encompassing manufacturing) while the hybrid system realizes high-demand environmental performance, and an interior and exterior design injects new charm into the Century in line with its heritage.
The new Century features advanced equipment and comfort amenities suitable for a luxury car, and numerous improvements have been made to achieve serenity and cruising stability.”