Toyota Targets Hyundai Design - And That's a Mistake
According to BusinessWeek.com, "Akio Toyoda, chief executive officer of Toyota, has made styling and performance priorities across the carmaker’s model lines. Making major changes midway through the life cycle of Camry, redesigned in 2011, is unprecedented for a car that’s purchased more for value and durability than looks."
Yet, the interesting thing is Hyundai is revamping the Sonata just as Toyota is revamping the Camry to be more like the Sonata. In other words, Toyota is going to be one generation behind Hyundai. As Eric Noble, president of industry consultant CarLab, said in the BusinessWeek.com interview, “Hyundai, not in volume terms but in attitudinal terms, really became the segment leader. What they did really has resulted in forcing Toyota out of a defensive position, where instead of just trying to hold market share, they have to challenge and innovate.”
The Hyundai Sonata has already been unveiled in Korea and it's a good looking midsize sedan. Hyundai seems to be borrowing a page from the Subaru playbook. That Japanese manufacturer has found success by going more mainstream with its designs and working on interior and powertrains for skyrocketing sales.
Toyota on the other hand is going more sporting and daring with the new Camry according to photos published on the web. That should make it a darling with the automotive press but do nothing to attract new customers. It could also turn off existing customers who may not want its bold design. Instead, they could head over to Subaru or, irony of all irony, Hyundai for the more conservative stylings. After all, Camry buyers are traditionally conservative.
Hyundai designers should be flattered that the world's largest automaker is paying attention to their work. It's just a shame that Toyota is finally focusing on design and its approach is such a mistake.