By on April 13, 2016

CU-ICAR/Toyota uBox concept (Image: Toyota)

It’s a bit like Scooby-Doo meets A Clockwork Orange.

Graduate students at Clemson University’s International Center for Automotive Research (CU-ICAR) spent two years working with Toyota to create the ideal vehicle for the next age demographic to leap into the car-buying fray: Generation Z.

No, we’re not talking about some stodgy Millennial born in 1985, with his cardigans and Dodge Journey. Generation Z refers to the cohort born in the late 1990s (at the earliest) onward, and these are the people automakers are going to start targeting right … about … now.

Working under the project name Deep Orange (“Orange?” Hmm … ), the students crafted the ultimate ride for the generation who’ll have Instagram photos from their elementary school graduation. The year 2020 was the engineering group’s target marketing date.

Called the uBox, a name Scion might have appropriated if this was 2004, the vehicle blends versatility, cargo room and some degree of off-road capability. Clamshell doors, 3D-printed materials, a bonded glass roof and emissions-free connectivity hookups everywhere are defining characteristics of the uBox.

“Deep Orange gives students hands-on experience with the entire vehicle development process, from identifying the market opportunity through the vehicle build,” said Johnell Brooks, an associate professor in Clemson’s graduate engineering program, in a release.

Configurable seats and interior panels would allow buyers to put a personal touch on their rides. After all, you don’t want a uBox that looks just like the one your friends Jayden and Liam own.

“They’re not brand loyal, but they are very brand conscious,” said Mark Benton, Clemson’s project manager for Deep Orange, of Gen-Z car buyers. “They like to have products they can customize.”

Toyota and Clemson weren’t forthcoming on the concept’s propulsion source, but the wording of their statements and body style implies a battery electric vehicle. A high floor would allow for a large, flat battery pack and electric motor, freeing up space for a cavernous interior (which could be rented out on Airbnb during Gen-Z’s low-money years).

[Image: Toyota Motor Corporation]

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70 Comments on “The Shape of Things to Come? Generation Z Wants This, Right Now...”


  • avatar
    Rick T.

    “Toyota and Clemson weren’t forthcoming on the concept’s propulsion source…”

    The hybrid good intentions/unicorn farts motor is still under development.

  • avatar
    28-Cars-Later

    I read 2000 for Z-ombies, meaning the oldest is 16. These folks won’t matter for at least a decade from the car buying standpoint.

  • avatar
    cwallace

    Great job, kids- you just spent two years reinventing every stupid people-hauler concept that’s been introduced since the mid-1970s.

    Maybe Soylent Green would be a more fitting name than Deep Orange.

  • avatar
    CoreyDL

    Stop showing me g-d teal bullsh!t, manufacturers. Teal isn’t going to work.

  • avatar
    CoreyDL

    “some stodgy Millennial born in 1985, with his cardigans and Dodge Journey.”

    I hate Craig.

  • avatar
    tresmonos

    Orange as in Clemson colors.

    I lived near Clemson for several years on my OEM hiatus status. What John D. Hollingsworth did for the region and ICAR is insane. It’s been great for the community, especially since Clemson used to be the go to for textiles only. Clemson has spit out many talented engineers that I’ve worked with.

    With that said, those kids are pretty cocky with respect to the rest of automotive / manufacturing based education. They don’t even know who John D. Hollingsworth is and why they have ‘nice things.’

    This isn’t what I’d call a shining moment indicative of Clemson’s engineers.

  • avatar
    CoreyDL

    “They like to have products they can customize.”

    If you change the word “customize” to “coachwork,” then you’ll have my attention.

  • avatar
    NoID

    I deleted the e-mail notification of the new post without bothering to open it. Then, curious, I opened the e-mail from my trash just to get a glimpse.

    After seeing the image, I hastily clicked the “comment” link before even more hastily clicking the “delete forever” box in hopes that it would wash my memory clean. I still haven’t read the article, and I don’t care to.

    Now if you’ll excuse me, I have some ozone to go deplete in a proper car.

  • avatar
    RS

    What kind of money will Generation Z have to spend on anything other than food and video games?

  • avatar

    Generation Z is gonna be so deep in compounding interest debt they’ll be lucky if they can afford an UBER that looks like this.

    And their parents will be no help – they’ll be in foreclosure with their Chinese-owned lenders.

  • avatar
    APaGttH

    Is that the off-road version of the Tartan Prancer?

  • avatar
    bumpy ii

    I like that color.

  • avatar

    Complete with pedestrian eviscerator on the hood, and twin graters covering the A-pillars, perfect for any pieces left.

  • avatar
    RHD

    Is there a logical explanation for the rear spoiler mounted on the front hood?
    My guess is to provide a spongy surface to for pedestrians to bounce off of, in conformance with European safety requirements.
    Other than that, the sucked-in-cheeks look of the sides just reduces space for side-impact protections and interior space, while weighing more than a flat side would. More pictures would give even more details to wonder about.

  • avatar
    Kyree S. Williams

    Well, that group doesn’t include me, but does include my sister, who was born in the late 90s. Unfortunately, she’s grown up listening to me rattling on and on about various cars, and so her desires in a car are about the same as mine…

  • avatar
    Fred

    First mistake is thinking a whole generation of people think alike. Second mistake is thinking teenagers know what they want.

  • avatar
    PeriSoft

    Is there some reason that automotive design students absolutely never come up with anything even remotely non-hideous? I can’t imagine that any of these students ever go on to work in industry, because even counting the Aztek and the Juke I’ve never seen an actual production vehicle that’s even in the same solar system of ugliness as the most comely of student design efforts.

    *horrified shiver*

  • avatar
    philadlj

    Kudos for eschewing the word “disrupt”. Or “eschew.”

  • avatar
    Driver8

    “just like the one your friends Jayden and Liam own.”

    I think you meant ride in,as in Uber, driven by a gig economy X’er.

    The others will be buying wrapped Lambos.

  • avatar
    indi500fan

    One of my old GM workmates is the major domo of CU-ICAR.
    I need to call him up and snark on this…..

  • avatar
    Von

    Is it just me or is the Aztec looking better with each new car that gets released?

    • 0 avatar
      TMA1

      The Aztec’s not even odd looking anymore. If the Isuzu Vehicross of 15 years ago came out today, no one would give it a second glance. Both of those are pretty damn modest by today’s standards.

      • 0 avatar
        Jeff S

        This makes the Aztec and the Vehicross look beautiful. This can be the first Chinese made Toyota imported to the US market in 2020.

        • 0 avatar
          CoreyDL

          I always liked the VehiCROSS. I’d drive one around happily.

          • 0 avatar
            ArialATOMV8

            To come to think about it you guys are right! The Aztec and Vehicross are revolutionary for their generation and, if they came out today, they would be sucessful!

            Those who think outside the box create inspiration for the next generation.

    • 0 avatar
      Quentin

      No, not at all. The neighbor across the street has a son or grandson that drives one and I’m reminded every few days that the Aztek is still hideous. Bonus: it leaks oil.

  • avatar
    Kenmore

    I love it except for the trellis towers welded to the front and the sheet metal growing up into where greenhouse should be. At least it’s tall and very cab forward.

  • avatar
    SCE to AUX

    “Jayden and Liam”

    +1

    Of course, the problem with customizing your ride is that nobody else wants that combination when you sell it.

  • avatar
    FromaBuick6

    The shape things to come? Wow, I guess Triumph wasn’t full of sh!t after all.

    Shoot, they even got the color right…

  • avatar
    Xeranar

    I do find it weird that a decade apart Toyota still claims that youths want to ‘customize’ things. If cell phones and tablets have told us anything, NO, NO WE DON’T. We like to customize easily moved and replaced features in our gadgets but actually customizing our gadgets with expensive add-ons? Not really. The most successful add-ons for phones are payment systems to cut cost on proprietary POSes & camera modules that actually do heavy lifting camera work.

    Side note: I saw today a FCA 2-door sebring blacked out and completely stripped . Not really caring that much but it was clearly in ‘test bed swirls’ livery I decided to check it out. It’s a plug-in test bed car that when I cornered the guys at the waterfront went mum about what it was actually packing or who they worked for. Hilarity ensued. It was fast though, when I was trying to catch up to it it went from a rolling start to nearly 50 in under 5 seconds. (EV power!)

    • 0 avatar
      NoID

      We don’t build a sebring. Your story must be a fabrication.

      Move along, nothing to see here.

      • 0 avatar
        Xeranar

        It was still wearing older sebring bits but had newer 200 doors…It was all kinds of odd to be honest. I gathered they were stress-testing the car’s endurance in wet/hot/humid climates and NOLA is a solid place to get real world dynamics and all those effects.

        EDIT: Trunk was 2010 Sebring, front was a newer 200 face without a grill insert at all. I gathered that the car was newer with grabbed older parts because the interior was basically brand new.

        • 0 avatar
          NoID

          Hard to see FCA putting something of that nature into production now that they’re letting the Dart and 200 wither on the vine. Whatever lessons learned from the hobgoblin you witnessed will be applied elsewhere I imagine. Technology test bed.

    • 0 avatar
      SSJeep

      Customization doesn’t sell cars, except maybe at the very high end. If customization actually sold, Scion would still be around and making scads of money on assorted plastic speaker grills, exhaust tips, and Red Bull cup holder bushings.

      The #1 used car among millenials is the Dodge Magnum. Go figure.

      • 0 avatar
        Drzhivago138

        “The #1 used car among millenials is the Dodge Magnum.”

        How did you come to that conclusion? Just looking in university parking lots, it seems the #1 used car is a Camry, or some early-00s Pontiac/Olds/Buick.

  • avatar
    doublechili

    Hate to say it, but this is what electric cars are going to look like. There’s no reason to retain the long hood with no internal combustion engine underneath. We have seen the future, your preconceived design notions be damned.

  • avatar
    MRF 95 T-Bird

    Looks like a cross between a Renault Avantime, GM Dustbuster mini-van and a Aztek

  • avatar
    laserwizard

    Designed by idiots for blind idiots

  • avatar
    tankinbeans

    Designed by Pixar to be used as a filter feeder for Finding Dory?

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