While Toyota and Aston Martin’s alliance is not on the level of the other two, the Japanese auto giant is in the process of producing its iQ model for its more upscale colleague in the United Kingdom.
The partnership of the two manufacturers comes at a time when both are in desperate need for bold and revolutionary moves that can jumpstart a floundering industry that’s in dire need of some fresh blood.
As part of the agreement, Toyota will supply iQ cars, which, as a matter of fact, are built in Japan, to Aston Martin, which, in turn, will sell these vehicles under the brand under a pseudonym: the Cygnet.
Times are changing, gone are the ways of the oversized thirsty automobile in favor of leaner more efficient machines. Compact cars with sports inspired attitudes are where the future of fun to drive vehicles is going. The Japanese automaker well known for making fuel-efficient compacts, Toyota, is continuing the trend with their upcoming compact sports car, based on the small city-car, the iQ. The next generation sport compact is expected to make its auto show debut sometime next year.
According to the automaker, the new model will be a "fun to drive" car, created for younger new car buyers. The vehicle will combine a six speed manual transmission with Toyota’s new 1.3 Liter engine, the combination should be good for a very Prius-like 55 MPG. When it goes on sale, the vehicle should retail for around 200 Million yen, or around $20,000 if it ever comes to the U.S.
By now you have most likely heard about the world’s smallest 4 passenger car that comes with a 1.0 liter engine that gets 54 miles per gallon. The iQ is what Toyota likes to call a premium minicar, that is because even though the car is diminutive in size, weighing about 2,200 pounds, it is still priced around 1.5 million Yen (about $15,000). What you may not know is that Toyota has been planning on producing an open air version of the iQ for quite some time.
The Japanese publication, Motor Magazine, released this rendering of the funky roadster that sources at Toyota claim is scheduled to make its world debut at the Tokyo Auto Salon that will be held from October 23 through November 8, 2009.
After announcing that the small iQ might be offered on the US market , Toyota also announced that a roadster version of the iQ will be revealed at the Tokyo Motor Show (23 October to November 8). The car will come as a study, but will keep the same design line as the coupe version.
The spider version will be offered with a choice of 1.0 - and a 1.3-liter gasoline and diesel engine; while the safety features will include: numerous airbags, ABS and ESP.
If Toyota decides to bring the iQ to the U.S., it may have to educate the American public on the benefits of a premium mini car. The 1.0-liter engine should be good for 54 mpg, but the little car may come at a relatively premium price. The Japanese version retails for between 1.4 million yen and 1.6 million yen ($13,860-$15,840). That kind of cash could buy a new Ford Focus or a slightly used Honda Civic (Toyota’s own Yaris starts out at $12,205.)
The only other premium microcar out there is the Smart ForTwo , a which is 12 inches shorter than the iQ and gets 44 mpg. But the ForTwo pricing also starts at about $11,000.
Toyota is targeting sales of 102,000 units a year. Sales of the iQ should begin in Japan on November 20, and in Europe by 2009. The iQ should find good homes in both of these places, because they are traditionally friendlier than the U.S. to the small car.
For the iQ to come to the U.S., Toyota must develop different airbags and improve bumper strength for the iQ to pass safety standards. Toyota may also change the iQ for comfort items, including upgrading the engine to 1.5-liters.
Hummer who? From two importers who have been following the "bigger is better" model for the last few years comes a little redemption. Both Toyota and Audi are considering bringing their smallest models in the line-up to the U.S. market. Even if both iQ and A1 were developed with only the European market in mind, company executives are thinking that these two models might be successful in the U.S.
The A1 (see the latest A1 Sportback Concept unveiled at the Paris Auto Show) is about 10 inches shorter than Audi’s A3 . Peter Schwarzenbauer, Audi’s worldwide sales and marketing boss said, "A year ago, I would have said no... I think (the market) has changed. Therefore, we definitely have to reconsider the A1."
The A1 concept is a hybrid that combines a turbocharged, 148-hp, 1.4-liter inline four-cylinder engine with an electric motor that boosts torque. While this setup may make production, it is likely that the first production A1s will use a conventional gas-only setup if it appears in the U.S.
Foreign automakers may still be a little weary about sales of small cars in the U.S. Although Americans are becoming more conscious about fuel efficiency, it is a big risk to spend the money to send low-profit small cars to a country where they have historically sold poorly. Both Audi and Toyota have not made any final decisions about their small cars future.
Toyota will unveil next month at the Paris Auto Show the 2009 iQ , a tiny front-engine four-seat car that will go on sale in Europe and Japan this winter. But this is just the start, Toyota plans to build more models on iQ’s architecture: the next-generation Yaris, a seven-seat microvan, and a hybrid to challenge the 2009 Honda Insight .
This cross-utilization is so that the 2011 Yaris can be improved and reworked to fight the Honda Fit. Toyota will have the iQ-derived small hybrid on sale about a year after the next-generation Prius makes its debut. The company intends to build a million hybrids a year from 2010.
Toyota will unveil the production version of the 2009 iQ at the Paris Auto Show. Measuring less than 10 feet in length, the iQ is not just the world’s smallest 4-seater ever built, but it is also a serious green machine with CO2 emissions levels starting at a mere 99 g/km.
But this is only the beginning. Starting 2010, it will also gain the title of the world’s smallest hybrid. Inspired by the next generation Prius , the hybrid iQ will be powered by a 500cc engine and a small electric motor. That means drivers will have the option to plug in to an electricity supply to extend the car’s range.
Toyota announced that the iQ -one of the greatest Smart competitors- will go on sale in Japan in November and hits European showrooms in January. USA is also under consideration: "From the early stages of development, we didn’t recognize that oil prices would be like this," he says. "Also, the Smart is very successful in the U.S. market."
The iQ is packed with engineering innovations to save space and has better handling and performance, says Nakajima. It weighs less than 2,200 pounds and boasts the best fuel efficiency of any gasoline-powered car in Toyota’s lineup, excluding the Prius.
For the European market, Toyota will also offer a 1.4-liter diesel powerplant. The car also will come with 1.3- and 1.0-liter gasoline engines.
Toyota hasn’t announced the iQ’s price, but it is expected to have the same price as the Yaris: $9,975.
The company hopes to sell around 100,000 vehicles a year.