Toyota's stylish FT-1 rocks Detroit

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<b> A HINT AT FUTURE TOYOTAS:</b> Toyota’s FT-1 concept hints at the design of future vehicles from the Japanese automaker, which it claims will be more stylish and ‘fun to drive’. <i>Image: TOYOTA</i>
<b> A HINT AT FUTURE TOYOTAS:</b> Toyota’s FT-1 concept hints at the design of future vehicles from the Japanese automaker, which it claims will be more stylish and ‘fun to drive’. <i>Image: TOYOTA</i>
DETROIT, Michigan - Toyota revealed a sexy new sports car concept car at the 2014 North American International Auto Show here that, it hopes, will help to change the Japanese automaker's reputation for 'sedate' vehicles.

IMAGE GALLERY: 2014 Detroit show

A "pit crew" opened a shiny red box to reveal the curvaceous FT-1 sports concept - Future Toyota 1.

‘SPIRITUAL PACE CAR’

Kevin Hunter, president of Calty Design Research which developed the car, said: “This is a symbol of Toyota's design future, a spiritual pace car. This provocative concept truly captures the passion, excitement, and energy of the Toyota we are evolving into and embodies elements of the emotion and performance that Toyota will imprint upon future production designs."

Hunter said that Toyota had previously designed its vehicles so they would be "liked by everybody - as a result we took less risks and tried not to stray too far".

Akido Toyoda, grandson of Toyota's founder and a race car enthusiast who took over as chief executive in 2009, is determined to invigorate products with Waku-Doki: "a palpable heart-pounding sense of excitement".

‘MORE EMOTIONAL’ TOYOTAS

Hunter said the FT-1 was initially devised for the Sony Playstation racing game 'Gran Turismo'. Toyoda tested it on a virtual Fuji Speedway and was so captivated by its styling and performance that he gave the go-ahead for a real car.

The aim is to move away from design by consensus and to build cars that spark an emotional reaction in connect more deeply with customers.

Toyota USA’s head of operations, Bob Carter, said the automaker has no plans to bring the FT-1 to its showrooms but rather it was a model of the "engaging design" being implemented throughout Toyota's line-up. "We're going to be more emotional in our styling and more fun to drive."

The new approach has already come to market in the form of its Auris and Corolla models; the latter will arrive in South Africa in February 2014.

Carter said the automaker’s future design language is also represented in Toyota’s luxury arm Lexus and its new RC-F coupe. "That’s one beautiful car. It's the highest-performance Lexus V8 that we've done."

US SALES SUCCESS

Toyota's more emotive styling helped it grow US sales by 7% in 2013 to 2.3-million vehicles. It expects to increase US sales by 100 000 vehicles in 2014 even as the overall industry begins to plateau at an annual rate of around 16-million after four years of dramatic growth since the 2008 crash.

Carter said: "We had a terrific year in (20)13, we really think we're well positioned for (20)14."

HEADED FOR PLAYSTATION

While it may be years before Toyota brings a sports car back into its line-up enthusiasts can test the new FT-1 as a virtual version available for download on Gran Turismo on January 14 2014.
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