Toyota’s cars may have an unshakeable reputation for quality and reliability in India, but the company is aware that it needs to do more on the design front to draw buyers. Speaking to Autocar India, Toyota Kirloskar Motor’s straight-talking new MD, Naomi Ishii, has acknowledged the carmaker’s need to focus on more stylish designs to drive up desirability. “All our new models must have better and more aggressive styling. We have been conservative in the past,” he said.
The biggest beneficiaries of Toyota’s greater emphasis on design would be the next generation Etios sedan and Etios Liva hatchback that are due in 2016. Both cars, designed especially for India, have so far performed far below Toyota’s expectations. Company executives know that despite these cars’ promise of reliability, hassle free ownership and ease of maintenance, all traditional Toyota strengths; it’s their dull styling that has largely kept buyers away from showrooms. Initial feedback had also highlighted the basic interiors and mediocre refinement as other problem areas, but Toyota was relatively quick to address these issues with the first set of updates. However, styling has been largely ignored over the years and even the recent ‘facelift’ that saw the incorporation of a new grille on both the cars is just too subtle to rope in too many buyers.
Globally too, Toyota wants to shake off its ‘boring’ image with more emotive designs. The latest Corolla, that looks far more appealing than its predecessors, was a step in this direction. The Toyota Innova, a big-seller across Asia, could also be in for a more stylish exterior, but it won’t take a radical departure in shape. Speaking on the subject, Ishii said, "Styling will be a focus (on the next Innova), but without sacrificing its selling point – space. We must balance form and function".
Test mules of the next-generation Innova suggest similar dimensions, but a more pronounced front with a larger grille and larger headlights. The upswept glasshouse in the region of the third row also seems to be different from the current Innova. Like the Etios, the new Innova is expected to go on sale in 2016.
More appealing design could just make the Toyotas of the future cars that you’d buy with your heart, not solely with your head.