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Toyota unveils 'smartphone on four wheels'

Yuri Kageyama, SMH | Nov. 30, 2011
Toyota's president unveiled a futuristic concept car resembling a giant smartphone to demonstrate how Japan's top automaker is trying to take the lead in technology at the upcoming Tokyo auto show.

Toyota's president unveiled a futuristic concept car resembling a giant smartphone to demonstrate how Japan's top automaker is trying to take the lead in technology at the upcoming Tokyo auto show.

Toyota Motor will also be showing an electric vehicle, set for launch next year, and a tiny version of the hit Prius gas-electric hybrid at the Tokyo Motor Show, which opens to the public this weekend.

But the automaker's president, Akio Toyoda, chose to focus on the experimental Fun-Vii, which he called "a smartphone on four wheels" at Monday's preview of what Toyota is displaying at the show.

The whole body of the concept car can be used as a display space, with the body colour and display content changeable at will.

The whole body of the concept car can be used as a display space, with the body colour and display content changeable at will. Photo: Reuters

The car works like a personal computer and allows drivers to connect with dealers and others with a tap of a touch-panel door.

"A car must appeal to our emotions," Toyoda said, using the Japanese term "waku waku doki doki", referring to a heart aflutter with anticipation.

Toyota's booth will be a major attraction at the biannual Tokyo exhibition for the auto industry. Toyota said the Fun Vii was an example of what might be in the works in "20XX", giving no dates.

A model presents Toyota's concept vehicle Fun-Vii at a pre-Tokyo Motor show reception in a showroom in Tokyo November 28, 2011.

A model presents Toyota's concept vehicle Fun-Vii at a pre-Tokyo Motor show reception in a showroom in Tokyo November 28, 2011. Photo: Reuters

The Tokyo show has been scaled back in recent years as US and European automakers increasingly look to China and other places where growth potential is greater. US automaker Ford Motor isn't even taking part in the show.

Toyota's electric vehicle FT-EV III, still a concept or test model, doesn't have a price yet, but is designed for short trips such as grocery shopping and work commutes, running 105 kilometres on one full charge.

The new small hybrid will be named Aqua in Japan, where it goes on sale next month. Overseas dates are undecided. Outside Japan it will be sold as a Prius.

Japan's automakers, already battered by years of sales stagnation at home, took another hit from the March 11 earthquake and tsunami, which damaged part suppliers in northeastern Japan, and forced the car makers to cut back production.

 

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