By on September 29, 2011

 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.”

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19 Comments on “No More Vanilla! Toyota Promises Pistachio...”

  • avatar

    The only people complaining about Toyota design are people associated with Detroit.

    FYI … Toyota design studios are based in Newport Beach, Ca, and people in Newport Beach know a whole lot more about style than those sentenced to live in the rustbelt and drive Detroit iron. Heck, most in the rust belt shop for clothes at Sears, Target, or Kohls. That is style leadership.

    • 0 avatar

      Of course this is true.

      If one lives in the US midwest but finds oneself with an advanced sense of style, all other life considerations must necessarily be set aside so that this sense of style can live in the prime superficiality of Newport Beach.

      It’s so obvious.

    • 0 avatar

      Exactly. The Toyota faithful have no issues with the current designs, cause if they did, Toyota wouldn’t be the third largest in the US or the second largest in the world after GM. By making their cars exciting and edgy, Toyota is going to lose a lot of customers to Honda. The Corolla is the top selling car in the world, partly due to the anonymous styling. It defines a “CAR”, nothing more. Just like the top selling refrigerator in the world is a white rectangular cube.

      60% of North American Sales for Toyota and Lexus combined are from 4 models, Corolla, Camry, Rav4 and Prius, four of the blandest automobiles out there. I am sure the Global numbers are similar. It will be stupid of Toyota to alienate their base. The Lexus customer base is no different. The Lexus ES and RX contribute about 50% of sales to Lexus. Both FWD people movers based off the Camry.

      • 0 avatar

        God bless the Toyota faithful who probably demand practicality first and foremost in a vehicle.

        That said, I hope the folks in Newport Beach had nothing to do with sheet metal on the Corolla, RAV4 or Tacoma – which are butt ugly. All three may be practical, but outside of SoCal, they be fugly.

    • 0 avatar

      I have been inside both of Toyota’s studios in the US, CALTY Newport Beach, and their CALTY Ann Arbor location. The designers move around between the Michigan and California locations. In fact, CALTY hires designers out of the College for Creative Studies, which is based in Detroit. They also use a lot of Japanese designers for the “J-factor.”

      Corolla and Camry (including the new one) were not designed by CALTY, since those are global vehicles. Camry was done at TMC-Styling.

      CALTY has done such head turning products as Avalon, Tundra, Highlander, FJ-Cruiser, Solara. I don’t think they got their inspiration from all the Ferrari’s and S-classes driving around Newport Beach for those vehicles.

  • avatar

    Toyotas are about to go from “boring and ugly” to “excitingly ugly”.

    Now if they could just hire somebody to make them drive properly. I suggest Lotus, they do that sort of thing on a contract basis.

  • avatar

    I swear, these troll rants make my day. Again there’s plenty of D3 sniping that’s justified (I’m looking at those plain jane Imapala’s and Taurus’s). And there’s plenty of excitement in Asian design coming out of Hyundai, Inifiniti and Acura (love or hate it, the new Acura nose is easy to distinguish). But seriously, Toyota is the singular most boring, vanilla design available. Why would you even attempt to defend it?

    There’s also plenty of beuaty in some of the D3 offerings, new Charger, Challenger, CTS Coupe and Focus being prime examples.

    But as an East Coast elite driving a Japanese design, what do I know?

  • avatar

    FT-86 with a decal package, side-exit exhaust, and gold rims?

  • avatar

    Average age of Camry buyers went above 60 last year. Corolla not looking youthful, either. Avalon? Yeah.

    Hey, for those of you taking this “don’t fix what ain’t broke” approach to managing Toyota’s design direction: There’s a reason you’re not high rollers in the car business and instead are making your living in . .. ahh . . . commenting on websites I guess . . .

    • 0 avatar

      I do not believe the 60 year old story on Camry owners. I think some Toyota executive mispoke, and the misquote has taken on a life of it’s own.

      On the east coast, the only Detroit iron I see is Taxi, Police, Rental, and old people owned. Only around Detroit do young people buy Detroit.

  • avatar

    There’s room for more exciting styling. I’d rather buy a Hyundai than a Toyota in large part due to the looks.

    Toyota has a pretty diverse lineup, and along with Scion, there should be enough vehicles for both conservative and more trendy.

    Take the Camry. I do believe they need to get younger customers for it. One way could be to design a Camry sedan that looks like a coupe, a la Mercedes CLS, and let Scion dealers sell it as a more profitable, exciting vehicle.

    Hyundai can manage to sell two different car brands successfully. GM had a good concept, as many people like a sporty looking vehicle, but how they ran it and what they offered left something to be desired.

    What needs to change is that sense of Japanese aesthetic weirdness that takes away from the whole with details that don’t fit in with the rest of the vehicle. The Hyundai Accent sedan I was just admiring in the mall parking lot does integrated styling pretty well. The Honda Odyssey, with its lightning side-window style that clashes with the sliding door slot, is distinctive but not appealing.

  • avatar

    Personally, I couldn’t give a crap about Toyota’s styling. What keeps them out of my wallet is the lack of offerings I’d drive. I have a 10 year old Tacoma pick-up. It’s simple, sturdy, fuel efficient, a managable size, and totally irreplacable. I don’t want a luxo-barge like the Tacoma has become. I want a pick-up truck. Toyota used to be good at making them. what happened?

    I also own an audi A4 with a stick. Toyota makes nothing like it. you’d think an AWD sport sedan would be a Toyota bread and butter item, but they have nothing except the appliance grade Camry and the retirement grade Avalon. The Corolla? don’t make me laugh.

  • avatar

    Toyota really had no choice. The Hyundai-Kia juggernaut is knocking at the door. If Samsung was able to crush the global favorites Sony and Panasonic, what makes you think HK won’t be able to crush Toyota? And they’re now bigger than all of the #2 car makers from Japan, Germany and the US.

  • avatar

    As far as styling goes, it’s quite subjective.

    I still like the Impala, but wish it had a more distinctive front end as well as three tail lights, but that’s me. We had one as a rental in SoCal last week and it was just fine for us – fuel-efficient, good visibility except for too-small outside mirrors, but otherwise just fine. It also handled Coldwater Canyon Road very well – I drove it faster than I ever have and my wifey kept telling me to slow down! All other roads? It did as well as my own Imp.

    In Phoenix we had a Kia Forte and I continue to be impressed with Kia’s offerings, whose design appeals to me very much. Last spring we also had a Forte when in Florida and that’s why we agreed to another one. Driving dynamics? Well, in the Phoenix area, for the most part, all roads are straight and flat, and it held the turns at intersections superbly and tracked straight and true. The gentle curves on the freeways? Yep!

    All in all, in the last three years, our worst rentals were the miserable Corolla in SoCal in 2008 and Hyundai Sonata last November.

    I hope Toyota wakes up for their own good – and I’m not a fan.

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