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Toyota iQ: A recession proof car?

Posted by: Ian Rowley on October 16, 2008


Tough times these might be but Toyota wasted no expense on the launch of its new “micro-premium” car, the iQ in Chiba, outside Tokyo, on Wednesday. Including Toyota employees, 1,000 people were in attendance at an event hall at Makuhari Messe, which serves at the site for the Tokyo Motor Show every two years.

While sales in Japan are likely to be just 2,500 a month, Toyota sees the tiny iQ, which measures just 2.985 meters (117 inches) long by 1.68 meters (65 inches) wide, as a big opportunity. The innovative auto, which will go sale in Japan starting at about $14,000 on November 20, seats three adults and one (small) child by taking advantage of some pretty nifty design innovations. Among them: a flat fuel tank under the floor, a total rethinking of the placement of components to eke out space savings, and a new smaller (but not less effective) air conditioning unit from Denso.

It’s also economical. Under the Japanese 10-15 test cycle, the iQ gets 54mpg, while C02 emissions from its one liter gasoline engine are among the lowest in the Toyota stable (including hybrids). That’s vital in Europe, where the iQ goes on sale in early 2009, as the European Union toughens up emissions regulations.

Chief engineer Hiroki Nakajima also confirmed, to an extent, reports in the press that Toyota plans to bring the iQ to the U.S. He said the iQ can be adapted to U.S. regulations relatively easily, by adopting the front bumper and changing the design of passenger side front airbags (the iQ has nine airbags as standard). Nakajima added that the iQ could appear in the U.S. midway through the current version’s product cycle.

But is Toyota’s iQ a recession buster? Inside, while small, it’s clear that it’s different to many small cars, especially in Japan where minicars tend to be cheap and cheerful econoboxes. The iQ’s doors have a satisfying clunk and the trim is much nicer than the average Yaris. On the other hand, it’s hardly cheap. Toyota says it hopes to create a new segment where small doesn’t have to mean low quality. And while slightly longer than the Smart Fortwo, Toyota points out the Smart only seats two.

Perhaps more important, though, is the way the space-saving technologies used in iQ will be extended to other new models. Nakajima said that while developing the iQ, one idea was to develop a seven-seater Yaris using a similar approach to space.

Reader Comments


October 16, 2008 6:45 AM

The EV dominated by Mitsubishi group including MMC, Mitsubishi Electric and many others ready for launch Feb. 09, in domestic market. Fuel cell by Honda, and hybrid dominated by Toyota. Sales incentives includes interest free for 12 Toyota models. Is the IQ also in the interest free incentive alongwith the 12. Is IQ although a good product dominated by Suzuki, an answer to the EV of Mitsubishi, GM, Toyota for 2010. Participating at the Networked Car after the Geneva Motor Show initiated by ITU the networked car concept is complete with the EV, GPS navigation, technology for pilotless car. Toyota agile for durability, plan to be at the Networked Car Geneva, or other events in Paris in Nov. Still the junk car markets of Asia are buisy buying decades old technology based cars in the subcontinent of India, Pakistan with local assemblies have no time to look about what is the future of the car market/business?


October 17, 2008 1:40 PM

Make some battery operated car vs many designers who are going for 0 to 60 in 1 nano seconds(which is useless). Look how many people are above age 50 (these are not going for these bogus cars).
2) top speed : say 200 MPH what can you do for speed more than 65 MPH? you cannot drive more than 65 legally (you will get tickets, higher chance for accidents, higher insurance).
Also when you go to work there is rush hour generally so you have to crawl(5-15 MPH) where battery is ideal as no use, no juice used.
3) Battery operated will be cheaper after technology is available for improving battery life. Now some Chinese car makers have tech which can run 110 miles/full charge.
4) When you are at work for about 6-2:30 P.M. or 7-3:30 P.M. i.e. 8 1/2 hours, then your solar roof can recharge your battery free.
5) Now TESLA motors makes 0-200 MPH I don't get carried away by this 200MPH because where are you going to drive at 200 MPH????? Higher the speed, higher the momentum & chance of serious injury.


October 17, 2008 9:43 PM

I'm not sure if this car will be able to move once a fat American sits down into one - 67hp, 3 cylinders, 1 liter engine.


October 19, 2008 11:59 AM


Thats the point. To make fat people walk till they can ride a microcar.


October 20, 2008 1:23 PM

They stole the idea from India's TATA who came up with the innovative, redesigned from ground up idea of $2500 car called Tata Nano.

TATAs are Thieves

October 21, 2008 3:51 PM

TOYOTA stealing idea from TATA is ridiculous. In fact it is the other way around.
TATA (former TELCO) stole the Truck technology from Daimler Benz of Germany and broke their tie up with them in 1969. Remember 30 yrs back we used to call TATA trucks as “benz lorries”.
TATA Indica’s design was stolen from that of FIAT, Albright IDEA the Italian design firm did it for TATA’s.
TATA’s IT Arm TCS stole the IRS Tax refund check’s from its US employees.
Proof :
TATA in connivance with the WB Govt tried to grab land from poor farmers in Singur at throw away prizes (Rs. 200 Crores) for it land guzzling NANO plant, after being chased out by agitating farmers, they paid Rs. 450 Crores for the same size of land in Gujarat.


October 21, 2008 7:46 PM

I know, how are all the fat people going to get into these things? Isn't that why the large drive trucks?

Toyota are cheap thieves

November 7, 2008 4:57 AM

I hate Toyota and all their fanboys. Like the one above. Tata never stole anything, Tata use to build Truck for Mercedes for India, then Mercedes stopped production and left the parts there, Instead of throwing them away TATA built their vehicles. They never stole anything. Toyota want to build a plant in INDIA to make a cheap car.WHO IS COPYING WHO? IDEA is paid to design cars for TATA, that is not stealing you idiot!



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Bloomberg Businessweek’s team of Asia reporters brings you the latest insights on business, politics, technology and culture from some of the world’s biggest and fastest-growing economies.

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