NEW YORK -- Toyota's rollout of the cheery but rugged FT-4X concept crossover is more of a trial balloon than an esoteric design project.
The consensus across the project team -- from designers at the Calty studio in California to North American sales executives -- is that the FT-4X is designed to become a reality if people want it.
"Would I like to see something like this built? Absolutely," said Jack Hollis, the former marketing chief who is now Toyota brand general manager. "It's not a concept that is so over the top or out of whack that you can't build it."
Toyota could use the FT-4X not just because the subcompact crossover segment is going bonkers, but also because it would add some male appeal to the lower end of the lineup where it's lacking.
The FT-4X shares a platform with the more sedate C-HR crossover going on sale in May. It would come out of the box with some medium-strength off-road capability and be marketed to millennials up for mild outdoorsy outings.
"I always imagined like the C-HR is the city mouse and FT-4X is the country mouse," said Ian Cartabiano, studio chief designer at Toyota's Calty Design Research center and part of the FT-4X design team.
In New York last week, the orange concept vehicle, whose interior flourishes include grab handles that double as water bottles and an armrest that converts to a sleeping bag, got lots of attention from young bloggers and YouTubers who could help determine its fate once they get their peers chattering.
"The fun thing about the New York auto show for us this year is to put something out there and say, "Let's have a discussion,'" said Hollis. "It's a starting point for a discussion on a very doable vehicle."