Toyota Goes Back to Basics
After a rough 2009, Toyota refocuses its efforts on what it knows best: hybrids.
2009 wasn't exactly a banner year for most automakers, and Toyota was no exception. The company lost the title of world's top automaker to Volkswagen, and a rash of recalls tarnished its otherwise spotless record of quality. With Toyota sales on par with the rest of the automotive market (i.e., not so good), the Japanese carmaker has decided to go back to basics at this year's North American International Auto Show here in Detroit. And by basics, we of course mean hybrids in the form of the all-new FT-CH.
The FT-CH is a compact hybrid designed to fill a slot just below the already-diminutive Prius. The car gets a broad, sporty stance, nearly two feet shorter than that of the Prius, even though the FT-CH is just as wide as its older cousin. Flared hips in the rear, a low-slung roofline and a swept C-pillar give the design some speed. So far, Toyota is keeping its lips sealed on drivetrain details and the likelihood of production. But given the concept's otherworldly interior, we wouldn't expect to see this one on the streets within the next two years.
While the world may have to wait for the wickedly styled FT-CH, families with elderly or disabled loved ones may welcome the addition of an auto-access seat to the Toyota Sienna minivan. The new seat makes Toyota the first company in North America to deliver a power rotating, ascending/descending seat in this class. Until now, buyers who wanted a similar product were forced to take their vehicle to an aftermarket supplier.
Toyota also announced that it would be implementing a hybrid fuel-cell vehicle demonstration program within the next three years, which of course runs in stark contrast to its previous push for plug-in electric vehicles. Instead, the company says it expects hydrogen to become more commonplace as supplies of gasoline and diesel wane, and by partnering a fuel cell with a hybrid electric system, Toyota hopes to offer drivers the range of today's vehicles with the efficiency of a full-electric car. The 100-plus demonstration cars will be distributed to universities, companies and government agencies in California and New York to help with research and development before the cars go on sale to the general public in 2015.