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Toyota designers working on ‘regional’ car

Aussie style: The 2004 Sportivo Coupe concept was a design exercise to showcase Toyota Styling Australia's talents. Now the studio is working on an Asian regional car.

Australian design studio reveals Toyota Asian car project underway in Melbourne

Toyota logo22 Dec 2009

TOYOTA’S Australian design studio has revealed it is working on a next-generation vehicle for sale in the Asia-Pacific region as it extends its international wings as one of Toyota’s four regional design centres.

Melbourne-based Toyota Style Australia (TSA) – best known for its work on the current Aurion that is made in four countries and sold in more than 20 – would not reveal the model or the nature of the work, saying only that it was helping out Japan on a car that is not currently sold in Australia.

The latter comment rules out the next-generation Aurion – if indeed there is such a vehicle when the current model comes to an end in about two years – as this particular object of attention at the design centre, just up the road from Toyota Motor Company Australia’s head office in Port Melbourne.

TSA joins highly rated design houses at GM Holden and Ford Australia in working on international projects, again underlining the strength of Australian automotive design and engineering skills.

While high-profile Holden designers and engineers have been working of a range of products, including the 2010 Cruze hatchback that will go into production in Adelaide next year, Ford’s Asia-Pacific and Africa design and engineering team at Broadmeadows has been working on the next Ranger ute, codenamed T6, for international introduction in 2011.

 center image Left: Toyota corporate manager of design at Toyota Style Australia Paul Beranger. Below: Toyota Aurion SX.

So far, much of the work done at TSA has been to guide Toyota’s Japanese designers on local and regional requirements and customer expectations.

But according to TSA corporate manager style and design Paul Beranger, the Australia design centre is continuing to evolve its operational relationship and processes with Toyota’s other international design centres, in Japan, the US (California) and Europe (Nice, France).

“Toyota Australia’s design capabilities now have global reach,” he said.

“As important as the actual creative design and prototyping conducted here at TSA, we continually supply information to Japan to assist them to understand local and regional market requirements and customer expectations.”

Mr Beranger said TSA’s aspirations for a more hands-on approach to local car design had been given a boost by Toyota’s new president Akio Toyoda who is promoting a more regional focus on design to better cater for different customer needs and tastes.

The new direction is in line with original vision for TSA when it was founded by the then Toyota Australia president in 2002 to deliver self-sufficiency in design and engineering to go with the company’s manufacturing and sales operations.

The main objective was for “localisation” of four- and six-cylinder car cars for local and export markets.

The founding of TSA coincided with the start of development of the car that was to become Aurion – a reskinned Camry fitted with a six-cylinder engine for Australia and and the Middle East and a four-cylinder engine for Asian markets, where it is known in some countries as the Prestige Camry.

“Since 2002, the work undertaken here in Melbourne supports Toyota vehicles that are manufactured in Australia, in the Asia Pacific region, and more recently globally,” Mr Beranger said.

“For example, Aurion was designed by Australians. It is now built in China, in Taiwan, Thailand and Australia and it is exported from our Altona plant to more than 20 countries. It is clearly a regional product.”

Another regional product is now under development at the Port Melbourne studios which was opened in 2006 after TSA moved from its original Dingley headquarters.

“Right next door here we are working on a car that does not even sell in Australia, but it sells regionally,” Mr Beranger said at this week’s media styling clinic for the forthcoming Camry Hybrid.

“We are able to assist Japan in their global activity.”

Toyota Australia increasingly has found itself working with Toyota’s Thai operations, which has become a powerhouse of Asian manufacturing – but one without its own design capability.

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