Toyota was very focused on youthful consumer appeal at the turn of the millennium. Around the same time the WiLL sub-brand launched in the Japanese home market with its multitude of different products, a similar project was just getting underway at Toyota Motor Sales USA.
It was called Project Genesis, and like WiLL, it didn’t go well.
Amazon is striving to put Alexa, the home assistant/listening device, into more automobiles in the coming years. As a result, the company is working feverishly to enhance her vehicular-related capabilities — including wriggling her way into the embedded software systems of new cars.
On the surface, it sounds great. Networking your car with your smart home device opens up a bevy of new conveniences and Alexa should also help your car get better at understanding everyday voice commands. In the future, you’ll be able to order groceries, check the stock market, call the office, and adjust the thermostat of your house and car without ever having to take your hands off the steering wheel. But this also opens up a bevy of concerns, now that we know Amazon’s employees listen to and record pretty much everything you say to the device — sometimes doing the same for background conversations that were never intended for Alexa’s ears.
The Toyota Echo, known as the Platz in its homeland (the hatchback was named Vitz), was available in the United States for the 2000 through 2005 model years. It was an inoffensive and reliable little commuter appliance, but something about its proportions seemed wrong to American car shoppers and few signed on the line that is dotted.
These days, even a Daewoo Lanos is easier to find than an Echo, but I was able to find this forlorn silver ’00 in a Denver-area self-service yard.
I woke up yesterday to see that my friend W. Christian “Mental” Ward had taken advantage of me while I was drunk.
My first thought was to make a porn movie in which I played myself, kind of like that nice young lady who recently graduated from Columbia did. (They call her “Mattress Girl”, by the way.) But then I realized that Mental’s violations had been limited to using the column title “No Fixed Abode” for his own opinions. So I calmed down. But then I wondered: what if I just let people use the title for columns of which I particularly approved, either drunk or sober? Eventually I wouldn’t even need to approve them myself. I could use an algorithm, or a Millennial. Perhaps, after fifty or seventy-five years of this, the phrase “no fixed abode” would become brandless, like “kleenex” or “band-aid.”
I can imagine some kid in the year 2210 waxing nostalgic about his steam-powered Kamakiri biosphere-mobile (the first person to get the reference wins the Internet) and saying to his friends, “Man, I’m going to hook up the ‘trodes and bang out a nofixedabode about the time I saw my Daddy mowing the lawn and I was like, ‘Come on Daddy, get in, let’s go!'” At that point, the original reason for the column title, to say nothing of its decidedly nonfamous originator, would be long lost to history.
Which brings us, of course, to the Prius.
The 2012 Yaris! It’s a car! That might sound like the strangest marketing claim for a new car ever, but if you dig deeper it is Toyota’s attempt at saying “OK, we get it.” Why? Because Toyota, like most manufacturers, has had trouble staying on message with basic transportation. Need proof? Look no further than the Corolla. The Corolla was a small, cheap and cheerful vehicle that has since grown into a 15-foot long sedan that weighs almost 3,000lbs and can reach $20,000 with options. No matter how nice a Corolla might be, cheap to buy it isn’t.
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