The Toyota CALTY U2 design concept for this year’s NY Maker’s Faire (gag) is at first a pretty lumpy and frumpy looking CUV/Van hybrid.
The segment occupied by the current Nissan NV200, Chevy CityExpress and Ford Transit Connect is surprisingly untapped for Toyota. This omission is odd from a brand which has everything from the AWD Sienna to the Prius C hatchback in the stable.
Who better to make a bread-and-butter utility van for cities than Toyota?
Sure, the Prius V and the Scion xB and xD absorb some of these Earth-y crunch-y buyer demands, but not in an overt and explicit way.
With the U2 concept, Toyota taps into these non-conformist buyer wishes with a flop-down rear hatch, high roof and huge cargo area behind the single driver’s seat up front.
Aside from all the marketing gook of the side windows and coupe bodystyle, the U2 does spy some interesting buyer needs that are currently unmet by a Toyota model.
Add an extra set of rear doors, and this machine would find eager buyers with or without a seven-seat passenger option.
INTERIOR AND NOSE ARE HIGHLIGHTS
So, the design might have all the initial sexiness of a wet sponge — that is true. The demure color appeals to freaky folks seeking something new, and the taillights are unique floating external structures in a bit of a throw-back to the Jeep CJ days of bolt-on lighting.
But the design of the nose is particularly successful — the black detailing and ultra-thin line of LED headlamps actually add some pizzaz to the boxy van profile of the U2.
Inside, the U2 continues to preview the future Toyota design language very nicely. An all-new steering and gauge setup are fabulously interesting, while the main dash panel is sunken low and far forward toward the winshield. A free-standing tablet control is within reach, with the open space behind it a work-van (and mom-van) drivers’ dream.
So, yay and nay on this one.
But like the U2 aerial survelliance aircraft, the Toyota U2 concept does bring some fresh and informative ideas to film!
And in real life at the bizarre entrepreneur’s Bonaroo that is the Maker Faire…!
2014 Toyota U2
MAKE SOMETHING NEW WITH TOYOTA URBAN UTILITY CONCEPT CAR
Toyota’s North American Design Studio Draws Inspiration from Maker Faire, Urban Lifestyle Trends
SAN FRANCISCO (Sept. 10, 2014) – The do-it-yourself movement is transforming cities with invention-focused Maker Faire events, growing entrepreneurship, and a new Toyota concept to fit these trends. Inspired by a growing innovative spirit in urban areas, Toyota revealed today the Urban Utility concept vehicle – or U2 – at a private panel discussion hosted by Make: magazine in San Francisco. Vehicle elements reflect the lifestyle and needs of an entrepreneurial, urban driver discovered through interviews with Maker Faire participants and internal Toyota market research.
Developed by Toyota’s Calty Design Research in Newport Beach, California, the Toyota U2 concept features a new open architecture and purposeful materials that redefine urban utility. Designers included the ability to roll back the roof, fold down the tailgate into a ramp and customize the interior on a versatile rail system. The concept car will make its first public appearance at World Maker Faire in New York City on Sept. 20 and 21.
“Toyota saw an opportunity for a new approach to an urban vehicle based on increasing re-urbanization of our cities and urban drivers’ desire for flexibility, fun and maneuverability,” said Kevin Hunter president of Calty, Toyota’s North American design studio. “Calty keeps a number of projects concealed while exploring ideas and products. Revealing a project like the U2 gives people a window into the constant innovation that happens inside Toyota and our Calty studios and one possible future for urban mobility.”
Bringing the concept to a Maker community event allowed Toyota to gain feedback from a key audience.
“As more products are developed expressly to appeal to Makers and their deep appreciation of design esthetic combined with open architecture and practical utility, we expect to see more trusted brands like Toyota take an unconventional approach to not only product development but their marketing and launch strategies,” said Sherry Huss, VP and co-founder of Maker Faire. “Leveraging the growing Maker movement and Makers’ broad sphere of influence can impact the success of consumer brands and future products.”
Among the U.S. trends that influenced the Calty design team were a growth in entrepreneurship and Americans’ love of adventure, especially outdoor activities involving gear and equipment. Drawing on these insights, the Toyota U2 concept is a flexible, functional gadget that owners can customize according to individual, on-the-go needs. The retractable utility bar can serve unique uses, such as holding a desk or grocery bag hooks. Side windows flip up for easy access from roadside.
Other key interior highlights include:
Versatile utility rail system configurable to hold everything from baskets to bike stands
Ability to fold and remove the front passenger seat
Fold-up rear seating
Unique shifter design with intuitive switch for parking, drive and reverse mode
Choice among a selection of colors and materials to fit needs
Toyota research showed the fast-growing small SUV segment points to a desire for greater utility but a smaller vehicle footprint. The Toyota U2 concept is the size of a compact car with the functionality of a compact truck and the spaciousness of a cargo van. It satisfies other key urban driver priorities including good fuel economy, maneuverability in city environments and easy loading and unloading.
An Exterior for the City
City streets call for a vehicle that can handle bumper-to-bumper traffic, potholes and tight corners. The Toyota U2 concept has an extremely durable underbody and tool-like exterior with a customizable side panel. The iconic, modern design remains playful, with details such as circular door handles and a slightly chunky proportion. The box-like design at the rear emphasizes the storage capabilities.
Highlights of the exterior include:
Roof panels that retract open
Rear glass that can slide into the tailgate
Tailgate that folds down into a ramp
Protective, replaceable ridges on tailgate
After its public reveal in New York, the Toyota U2 concept will return to the Calty studio in California. For more information about Toyota innovation, visit http://www.toyota.com/usa/operations/design-research-development.
Toyota (NYSE:TM), the world’s top automaker and creator of the Prius, is committed to building vehicles for the way people live through our Toyota, Lexus and Scion brands. Over the past 50 years, we’ve built more than 25 million cars and trucks in North America, where we operate 14 manufacturing plants and directly employ more than 40,000 people. Our 1,800 North American dealerships sold more than 2.5 million cars and trucks in 2013 – and about 80 percent of all Toyota vehicles sold over the past 20 years are still on the road today.
Toyota partners with philanthropic organizations across the country, with a focus on education, safety and the environment. As part of this commitment, we share the company’s extensive know-how garnered from building great cars and trucks to help community organizations and other nonprofits expand their ability to do good. For more information about Toyota, visit www.toyotanewsroom.com.
About Maker Media
Maker Media is a global platform for connecting makers with each other, with products and services, and with our partners. Through media, events and ecommerce, Maker Media serves a growing community of makers who bring a DIY mindset to technology. Whether as hobbyists or professionals, makers are creative, resourceful and curious, developing projects that demonstrate how they can interact with the world around them. The launch of Make: Magazine in 2005, followed by Maker Faire in 2006, jumpstarted a worldwide Maker Movement, which is transforming innovation, culture and education. Located in Sebastopol, CA, Maker Media is the publisher of Make: Magazine and the producer of Maker Faire. It also develops “getting started” kits and books that are sold in its Maker Shed store as well as in retail channels. The Make: brand caters to a universe of more than 25 million makers collectively across its Make: magazine, makezine.com, Maker Faires, and Maker Shed properties.
Tom Burkart is the founder and managing editor of Car-Revs-Daily.com, an innovative and rapidly-expanding automotive news magazine.
He holds a Journalism JBA degree from the University of Wisconsin – Madison. Tom currently resides in Charleston, South Carolina with his two amazing dogs, Drake and Tank.
Mr. Burkart is available for all questions and concerns by email Tom(at)car-revs-daily.com.