"In the future, out of 100 customers, we want to excite ten of them instead of not offending all 100."

Almost all of the details about the Toyota New Group Architecture (TNGA) strategy have come out since the initiative was first reported on in March of this year, but Autoblog did learn a few new things about it on a recent trip to Japan. Probably the second-most important detail is that each new segment platform will be based around a common hip point to create an "optimal driving position architecture."

Previously, each car was conceived on its own, so Toyota couldn't extract savings from cars that were close in size. The Etios, sold in Latin America and India, is not much smaller than the Corolla, but the two compacts had two different lead engineers, so they have different hip points and require different manufacturing processes and different kinds of commodity parts like seat belt equipment.

A common hip point and driving position, as well as other moves like the an R&D reorganization and the switch to parts engineered for global approval and pooled buying, will allow Toyota to harmonize parts like airbags, pedal boxes and seat belts to save money. The company expects to save 15 to 20 percent on manufacturing using TNGA, and 20 to 30 percent overall once development is included. Toyota also says it will use the efficiencies gained and money saved to make those commodity parts better, and they will have longer life cycles; while the lifespan of a Corolla won't change, a pedal box might carry over from one generation into a brand new generation. Three new front-wheel-drive cars are expected to ride on the platform in 2015, the Prius being one of them, and its advance estimate of 55 miles per gallon is said to be aided by the TNGA.

Another important objective of the streamlined development programs and common parts is allowing the designers to actually, you know, design a car instead of wrapping a platform in meek metal. Said company CEO Akio Toyoda earlier this year, "Instead of developing what customers would want next, we were making cars that would rake in sales" – cars that were just as popular as they were boring.

That brings us to what we think might be the most important advance provided by the TNGA, revealed in a presentation by company design chief Tokuo Fukuichi: "Before, we made cars so as not to be disliked by anyone. In the future, out of 100 customers, we want to excite ten of them instead of not offending all 100."
Toyota NS4 Concept

One shared feature we can look forward to is lower centers of gravity for vehicles.

Ultimately Toyota wants TNGA to enable parts sharing of between 70 to 80 percent throughout its line-up. Yes, that sounds like a lot of common components, but it's not like Toyota's core buyers will be at all concerned since we're talking about under-the-skin parts – many visible parts are already shared. One shared feature we can look forward to is lower centers of gravity for vehicles on the TNGA platform, aimed at providing better ride and handling, including an unnamed vehicle that we're told will have a class-leading CoG.

Fukuichi sketched the large arcs of where Toyota, Lexus and Scion designs are headed. The first slide in his presentation read, "Emotional design – design will change the current Toyota trend." And each of the slides we heard had a small footer that read, "Rewarded with a smile." So keeping in mind that the company can't give away its future product and intentions, here are the main points:

Overall, the three goals are to strengthen overall design identity, refine each brand's front-end identity and tailor it to specific markets, and hone each brand's design philosophy.



The NS4 concept is the vehicle regularly used as a demonstration of what to expect moving forward.

For Toyota, this means becoming more product-oriented instead of being entirely market-oriented. On the graph above, you can see how the parent company makes the biggest design move, forsaking the vertical bar of market orientation for the oval that spans market and product considerations. Fukuichi said Toyota has been like a department store, stocking the aisles with plenty of bland but serviceable goods, but wants to become a "select shop." We're not exactly sure what a "select shop" is, but we're going to guess the intention is to go from something like Target or Sears to Macy's or Nordstrom.


Toyota

Since 2002 Toyota's design philosophy has been "Vibrant Clarity," which breaks down into "Surprising flair," "Simple ingenuity" and "Bold challenge." That might work as marketing speak, but even Toyota admits that its cohesive family look has, until recently, been boring. In the past couple of years it has been refining its "Keen-look" front ends with the stronger T-motif up top, the trapezoidal grille below with a "floating bar" at the bottom, and giving the whole package more depth and dimension. On a seven-step walk from "Conservative" to "Irrelevant," Toyota says in the future it plans on settling right in the middle at "Unexpected." The NS4 concept is the vehicle regularly used as a demonstration of what to expect moving forward.




The TNGA will also allow more investment in regional design languages. Toyota has 15-percent market share in the United States, five percent in China and four percent in Europe, so it wants to strengthen the family look to make its cars memorable. In Japan, on the other hand, Toyota has 50-percent market share, so it wants to differentiate its cars because of their ubiquity.

Fukuichi's line about exciting ten people instead of trying not to disappoint 100 means being bolder outside and developing "packaging innovations" inside. Again, all we have to go on for now is the NS4 concept. We'll find out how far the company is really prepared to go in 2015 when the first new cars on the TNGA are unveiled.


Lexus



Back to that chart above, Lexus will become the "boutique shop" that moves heavily toward product orientation and will be designed to "exceed customer expectations." It will stick with the L-Finesse language first demonstrated on the 2006 GS and still going after a near-death experience in 2008. If you must know, that breaks down into "Seamless anticipation," "Incisive Simplicity" and "Intriguing elegance." Thankfully, we don't need to attempt to translate what that means today because we have the cars to do it for us. The GS brought us the Spindle Grille, which will continue to be refined, and we'll have the coming RC coupe and production version of the LF-NX concept to show us where things are headed.


Scion



Scion has the most interesting placement of all on that graph above, just a circle plopped above the product orientation axis without a single ovoid gesture toward the market. It will take the place of Toyota's "concept shop," which might mean we'll get more futuristic, in-house variations like the philosophy that guided the FR-S, the only truly interesting car that Scion has. The brand got barely a mention in the presentation, though; all we were told was that it will be aimed at "young users" by having "unique, edgy designs," which, if we recall correctly, means Scion intends to return to what it was when it was introduced.


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    • 1 Second Ago
  • 80 Comments
      jason32379
      • 1 Year Ago
      Setting the bar pretty low there.
      Zaki
      • 1 Year Ago
      So many words and nothing to say! Not any concrete information except philosophical goals and aspirations.
        Dwight Bynum Jr.
        • 1 Year Ago
        @Zaki
        I'm pretty sure their sales numbers (and bank account) speak for more clearly. Unless you're a designer or board member, I'm pretty certain your opinion is useless.
          Seal Rchin
          • 1 Year Ago
          @Dwight Bynum Jr.
          That's exactly my point, if you are not a possible Toyota buyer your opinion is useless. And they do not have to attract you because the have a huge base of people who do like their cars. Toyota needs to make cars for people who like Toyotas.
      Beardinals
      • 1 Year Ago
      "In the future, out of 100 customers, we want to excite ten of them instead of not offending all 100." - Quote of the year! The Corolla seems to be a step in the right direction.
      Goahead
      • 1 Year Ago
      Yipes, get rid of that Alfa Romeo/Enzo Ferrari-ish center nose! The rear looks like the recent Lincoln series...
      bK
      • 1 Year Ago
      Great quote, very spot on at what they are doing right now, trying not to offend 100 out of 100 people (everybody). Its a step forward acknowledging that rather then denying. Looking forward to their future cars.
      Bruce Lee
      • 1 Year Ago
      The graph seems to make sense, people buying a Lexus are more likely to want to be making a statement with the design, and Scion can be their concept shop of sorts. Let's be honest, Toyota can't just suddenly go nuts with the design of the Camry when it's already such a huge hit, it'd totally alienate their customer base and the car is supposed to be relatively conservative and reliable.
      Raul Rosa
      • 1 Year Ago
      Picture of European Corolla is wrong...that is a NA base model Corolla.
      Teleny411
      • 1 Year Ago
      Designers used to shoot for beauty. Nowadays it's menacing, or really ugly (Cherokee, Juke).
      Seal Rchin
      • 1 Year Ago
      Key for Toyota to understand is who buys cars, who has the money, and what do THOSE people want. Reading comments in here most people want all cars with diesel and a manual (for some reason they do not want to buy diesel Cruze) and almost no one buys manuals, but those people tend to be the loudest. People who have jobs, who make good money and actually do buy cars want super reliable cars so they do not have to take days off to go to the dealers and they want super efficient cars. Those who buy matter, those who talk buy do not buy..................THEY DO NOT MATTER.
        1454
        • 1 Year Ago
        @Seal Rchin
        I have to agree here. Honestly, people that buy cars(which sicken me) just want to put gas in and go. Never visit a dealer or shop ever again. They just want as maintenance free as can be, and drive.
      Matt
      • 1 Year Ago
      "Toyota: We want ten percent of our customers to think our cars are exciting". Way to shoot for the moon guys.
        Seal Rchin
        • 1 Year Ago
        @Matt
        You missing the point here, would you describe any sedan or CUV as exiting? No. You do realize that those are two most popular segments in USA. Excitement is not what sells cars, that's what people CLAIM they want but look at the sales stats and you will see that people want regual reliable cars. People tend to give their opinions about cars but completely ignore the numbers. Would you call Prius exiting? It is the most successful hybrid of all time, sells like crazy, has very short amount of days on the lot, people really like them. According to your logic it is a bad car that you would kill if you were a CEO.
          Matt
          • 1 Year Ago
          @Seal Rchin
          Non-luxury sedans and CUVs that I'm "excited" to drive and enjoy seeing on the road: Mazda 3/6/CX-5 VW Passat/Touareg (TDI models) Kia Optima Ford Focus/Fusion/Escape Subaru WRX/Forester XT Why do these models "excite" me? Because the push the envelope in technology and styling, two things Toyota doesn't do (the Prius may have advanced tech, but the Corolla/Camry/Rav4 are stuck in 1998 tech-wise).
          Matt
          • 1 Year Ago
          @Seal Rchin
          Oh yeah, forgot Chrysler 300/Jeep Grand Cherokee, and the new Chevy Impala. Those always turn my head.
        Ricky
        • 1 Year Ago
        @Matt
        Matt, Only ten percent (if that) of the car buying population cares if a car is exciting - Toyota is trying to tap into this portion, which is one of the last frontiers for them. To me this is just good business sense. "Car guys" like you and I must understand and accept that we're only a minute fraction of the car buying population.
          Matt
          • 1 Year Ago
          @Ricky
          EVERYONE is excited to drive home a new car, even if they don't know a crankshaft from a toaster. What I don't understand is how someone can be excited to drive home a new Toyota that has basically the same engine/transmission/interior as their Toyota from the Clinton administration.
          jtav2002
          • 1 Year Ago
          @Ricky
          The funny thing is, the Camry V6 with it's Clinton powertrain is right at the top for quickest car in the segment. lol. Obviously plenty of people are excited with their new Toyota's whether you would be or not. While others may certainly be improving their powertrains downsizing to FI 4cyl, etc at the same token you can still use the "if it ain't broke, don't fix it" motto. Atleast in V6 form. The 3.5L V6 is still a good engine with good power. The average buyer equates a V6 with being more powerful than any 4cyl. The common person doesn't realize that 4cyl engines are as powerful as many V6's of only a few years ago and turbo 4's put out the same if not hp than some of the larger engine offerings these cars used to have. Hell just today my boss said she was looking at trading in her previous generation Sonata V6 but doesn't know if she wants a new one because there is no V6 available. Many just think V6 = power and 4 cyl = no power and crappy. And mention a turbo and they just automatically assume a performance vehicle and want no parts of that, either. So it's obvious you don't understand a lot more than how someone can be excited by a new Toyota.
          Gorgenapper
          • 1 Year Ago
          @Ricky
          Didn't you know, 4 speed auto transmissions are all the rage in 2013. Oh wait, no they're not.
      Jay
      • 1 Year Ago
      Screw Toyota! They deserve to VANISH!!!
      Zaki
      • 1 Year Ago
      So Toyota's goal is to have 90% of their customers continue to find their cars as exciting as an appliance????
        jtav2002
        • 1 Year Ago
        @Zaki
        90% of car buyers are appliance buyers. Their point is they want to be able to appeal to the enthusiast too, which is a very small segment even though everyone here thinks 90% of the public are car enthusiasts.
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