MELBOURNE, Australia -- Toyota Motor Corp.'s technical center here is pushing for product development that eliminates full-sized foam or clay models.
Toyota already has skipped several traditional steps in developing a concept vehicle, and that could happen more often. With product life cycles declining rapidly, the savings in development time and money could be significant for automakers chasing hot designs.
"That's the way of the future," said Max Gillard, COO of Toyota Technical Center Asia Pacific Australia. "Because we have to reduce the time to market, we have to reduce costs; we have to reduce the resources that each individual model consumes."
Toyota's first accelerated project was the Sportivo Coupe, a concept unveiled last year and proof that the automaker could design something entirely using computer-aided design.
The Sportivo went directly from CAD to tooling in 30 weeks, bypassing industry-standard clay models. At this point, Gillard said, there are no plans to produce the Sportivo Coupe.
By skipping several intermediate prototype steps, Toyota produces an advanced prototype it calls a "confirmation vehicle."
The confirmation vehicle goes directly to early production tooling. That might allow Toyota to produce an advanced prototype vehicle just six months before mass production.
"That's the principle," Gillard said. "It can all be simulated by computer and, therefore, (we) try to improve the level of design much, much earlier in the program."
Gillard said Toyota can cut development time in half, allow vehicle engineers to become more involved earlier in the process and save money. He said the production of a prototype can cost up as much as $1 million.
Protoypes "assume a huge resource," Gillard said. "And, in the end, it really just confirms what people thought anyway."
Design changes during development also are hugely expensive.
"If you can reduce the number of design changes by doing very, very detailed design study in the first place," Gillard said, "again, it saves a lot of money."
He said Toyota will continue to look at reduced use of prototypes in its Ann Arbor, Mich., design center and other locations.
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