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Toyota Invigorates Design with FT-1 Concept Debut in Detroit

By: Jeff Youngs, 1/16/2014
What began as a brand promotion exercise in video gaming has become reality at the 2014 North American International Auto Show. The Toyota FT-1 Concept vehicle that debuted in Detroit was originally conceived to be a new car in the Sony PlayStation Gran Turismo 6 racing simulation game, but after Akio Toyoda, the automaker's CEO and an accomplished racecar driver, sampled the virtual car on a digitally rendered Fuji Speedway, and broke his own personal lap time on the real track while driving his personal Lexus LFA, the green light was given to transform the FT-1 Concept from fantasy to reality.

No specifications were supplied for the Toyota FT-1 Concept after it drove onto a stage at Detroit's Cobo Hall, which means the concept likely has nothing more than basic running gear that allows it to get around on its own. The downside to that is the FT-1 won't be heading down a production line anytime soon. The upside is that consumers who love how this car looks can dream about which powertrain they would install if given the chance.

Significantly, though, the Toyota FT-1 demonstrates two things. First, there is clearly passion at work within Toyota. Second, if that passion is expressed without the traditional boardroom design approval process in place, great things are possible.

Often criticized for uninspiring design, Toyota is simultaneously praised for its reliability. If the automaker can find a way to combine its talent for building vehicles that last with the design flair displayed by the FT-1 Concept, consumers will have even more reason to consider the company's products. Toyoda knows this and is taking steps to change the corporate culture in order to foster a future product lineup that reflects it.

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