TOKYO - Toyota Motor Corp. has consolidated its Japan-based advanced design work at its Tokyo Design Research & Laboratory in Hachioji City, Tokyo Prefecture.
At 58,125 square feet, the newly expanded design center is triple the size it was when it opened in July 1996. It is located about 90 minutes west of Toyota's previous design center in Mita, central Tokyo.
Toyota opened the Mita center in order for its stylists to stay in touch with design trends in Japan's capital, rather than have them isolated in rural Toyota City in central Japan. But times have changed.
'Those who claimed they could only do their job in the center of the city now are ready to move out here,' said Akihiro Wada, Toyota executive vice president in charge of research and development. He noted that Hachioji has a large number of young people.
It also offers a different quality of life, with easy access to camping and other activities that have grown popular with Japanese families.
Those shifting leisure-time pursuits have sparked a rise in the sale of Japan's so-called recreational vehicles, which include minivans, sport-utilities and station wagons, at the expense of Toyota's traditional sedans.
ROOM FOR CLAY MODELS
The expansion gives Toyota's Tokyo-based stylists the ability to do full-scale clay models for the first time, with the clay sculpted by hand. Toyota has automated clay modeling machines, but only at its headquarters.
The facility is a fairly low-tech operation in other ways as well. It has only five Silicon Graphics computer-aided design machines. Full-sized models have to be turned by hand on a giant turntable in front of the paint room in order to go in for painting.
Toyota still prepares four to six full-scale clay models of a new car before putting it into production. The company is moving to trim that to two or three but does not expect to eliminate them entirely.
'I think at the final stage we will always have to produce a clay or plastic model,' said Toshiaki Mizutani, general manager of the Tokyo Design Division and head of the Tokyo Design Research & Laboratory.
The new design center will join Toyota's Design Division at its headquarters in Toyota City; Calty Design Research Inc. in Newport Beach, Calif.; and the Europe Office of Creation (EPOC) in Zaventem, Belgium. The Belgian operations are scheduled to move next year to Toyota Europe Design Development S.A.R.L. on the Cote d'Azur in France.
While the headquarters' Design Division attends to designs of cars scheduled for production, the other three centers produce concept vehicles either for auto shows or for competitions with each other and the headquarters studio. The winning models from those competitions then move forward toward becoming production vehicles.