LOS ANGELES - In a quest to gain more U.S. market share and reach out to younger buyers, Honda and Toyota divisions have decided to become squarer.
Thomas Elliott, senior vice president of American Honda Motor Co. Inc., calls it a risk.
Jim Press, COO of Toyota Motor Sales U.S.A. Inc., calls it an experiment.
The executives are talking about their latest vehicles, the Honda Element and Toyota Scion bbX concept - two examples of function-over-form products that are trailblazers in car design for the U.S. market.
Both vehicles feature plenty of near-90-degree angles, flat glass and contour lines that make them look as though they were drafted on an Etch A Sketch.
"The vertical sides and flat panels leave a surprising amount of space inside," Scion national manager Bryan Bolain said of the bbX. "It was designed that way, with that versatility in mind."
Honda's designers have been saying much the same about the Element since its debut in January 2001 as the Model X concept at the Detroit auto show.