DETROIT -- Akio Toyoda has issued a companywide decree for "no more boring cars." And to back it up, the Toyota Motor Corp. president has given designers greater clout than ever.
The shift of power away from engineers delivered its first daring design in the futuristic, fin-tailed 2016 Prius. The latest is the 2018 Camry sedan, with its bold proportions and flared sheet metal.
At the Camry's debut this month in Detroit, Toyoda asked the overcapacity crowd if the eighth-generation sedan was sexy or really sexy. It speaks to a dramatic, if risky, move from the ho-hum Toyota of old.
The key to the automaker's styling push is a revamped vehicle-development strategy that elevates a new "product chief designer" to work alongside the chief engineer as equal partners in creating a car.
The idea would have been unthinkable at the world's biggest automaker just a few years ago.
For decades, design was routinely sacrificed at the hands of Toyota's production engineers, a coterie revered internally as "production gods" for their relentless pursuit of efficiency and the brutal veto power they wielded over any product flourish deemed too frivolous for the factory.
But Toyoda, in his own pursuit of sexy cars, has cut them down a notch.
Starting with the fourth-generation Prius, Toyota has overhauled how products are designed. The product chief designer was hatched as a kind of guardian of the styling studio's true intent, shepherding it from the day of the initial sketch to the car's line-off.