Toyota has a new global styling chief that makes heads turn in Aichi and Bunkyo, even before he has shown a rough design: “Eeeh? Look at that shirt! And did you see the gold chain???” Or as Frau Schmitto-san, TTAC’s advisor in multicultural matters exclaimed: “Global styling? He needs to style his hair!” It takes a lot to shake up Toyota’s culture, and Akihiro “Dezi” Nagaya has what it takes.
Charged with putting an end to the long tradition of conservative design, Dezi Nagaya definitely looks the part. According to Automotive News [sub], he “dresses like he’s on his way to a trendy Shibuya nightclub rather than off to work at Toyota.”
Cornered at the Frankfurt Auto Show (even there he stood out), Toyota’s new head of styling promised:
“We are going to be more dynamic, more masculine, sportier, with a more obvious design theme and a face to represent the company and the brand. We have eliminated emotion. We need to pump that up.”
Of course, all too radical design changes can be deadly. The challenge in the business is to look new and exciting while evoking associations with a familiar past. Nagaya promises to go easy on cars like the Camry and the Prius, which cater more to the left side of the brain than to the right.
Nagaya is against a rigid look like that of BMW, which he compares to “small, medium and large sausages.” He wants Toyota to be more like “a department store,” where many different products can live under one elegantly designed roof. Instead of scoops of vanilla, Nagaya offers the refined tastes of a high-end gelateria.
Like nearly everybody at Toyota, the 50 year old has been there forever. As general manager of the Lexus planning department in Tokyo, he was one of the creators of the “L-Finesse” design language for Lexus. Later, he became chief designer of the second-generation Toyota Prius, which became a sub-brand of its own. Said Nagaya to AN:
“Some people don’t know what a Toyota is, but with the Prius, people knew it was a hybrid, even if they didn’t know it was a Toyota.”