|Hans Greimel is Asia editor for Automotive News.|
TOKYO -- In case you missed it, Toyota Motor Corp. is "toying" with a new electric concept vehicle for a younger demographic.
In fact, Toyota unveiled the three-seat Camatte concept car this week at the Tokyo Toy Show to better target it hypothetical market –- children and their well-heeled parents.
The pint-sized car is just 2.70 meters (106 inches) long, 1.3 meters (51 inches) wide and 1.2 meters (47 inches) wide.
It is powered by an electric motor and lead-acid battery and hits a tepid top speed of 40 kph (25 mph).
While it's not street legal, the Camatte is not much smaller than the minicars that account for 40 percent of the Japanese market.
And that's the point. Toyota envisions the Camatte as a recruiting/training tool for the next-generation of Japanese drivers. It is something kids can drive at go-kart tracks or on non-public roads to, hopefully, kindle a love affair with autos.
While Toyota has no concrete plans to sell the cars, it isn't kidding around. Virtually all Japanese carmakers are frantically casting about for any way to spur interest in cars among young buyers here who no longer covet them as status symbols.
Indeed, the name Camatte is derived from the Japanese word "kamau," which means to care for -– as in care for your car.
The Camatte has a center-positioned driver's seat and side-by-side back seats. But controls allow a backseat parent to assist in steering and braking a car piloted by a front-seat child.
The body-panels can also be swapped to change the car's color or styling, allowing for Lego-like customization.
Says Toyota spokesman Dion Corbett:
"It is a concept created for the toy show to convey to a wide range of people, especially parents and children, the enjoyment of having, working on and driving a car."
But the styling, to me at least, looks less Playskool and more Volkswagen.