The Toyota Prado's chief engineer, Makoto Arimoto, and Hideo Suzuki, GM of Toyota's Sales and Marketing for the Middle East and Southwest Asia, talks about the launch of a Toyota Land Cruiser Prado model upgrade. Does Toyota still believe that the off-road technologies on the new Prado are still essential considering how few people drive off-road? Makoto Arimoto Usage in extreme conditions here will be a very small percentage, however the Prado is sold in more than 180 countries, where they may be using the vehicle in very extreme conditions.
In the development of this car there were two key phrases: one is off-road capability and the other is everyday comfort. The first is very important, but the comfort is another very important factor too. Are the Multi-Terrain Select, Crawl Control and Kinetic Dynamic Suspension System available on any other Toyota models? MA Multi-Terrain Select and the Multi-Terrain Monitor are firsts on this Prado, while Multi-Terrain Monitor is also a world first. Crawl Control is already available in the current Land Cruiser, and in fact all the development of the system was done in the Prado.
What is the appeal of the Prado over the Land Cruiser? MA The size is more appropriate. The Land Cruiser could be a bit too big, in my opinion. The Prado is a car that both husbands and wives can drive easily. What feature of the Prado are you most proud of? MA It's very difficult to pick out one feature. This is a full model change after seven years. As an engineer there are so many new technologies I wanted to incorporate in the vehicle before but couldn't I do it. I had a very long wish list. However, I studied as an audio engineer so if I was to pick out one, it would be the JBL 17-speaker sound system.
Where was the real-world testing of the Prado done? MA In Japan, Australia, Europe, and the Middle East in summer. Is it a different air conditioning system for this region? MA The basic components are the same across all markets, but we've added features to make it stronger. The pipes have more insulation in the Middle East. With 10 per cent share of regional Toyota sales what are your hopes for the Prado in 2010?
Hideo Suzuki In general terms, for the Middle East, according to our internal forecast, we believe that the total automotive market will recover to the 2008 level by maybe 2012 or 2013. So this year will be the bottom and we'll see a gradual recovery from next year. But this segment will continue to be very strong. Are there plans to introduce a hybrid powertrain like the 2.7-litre in the Camry?
MA Although the [2.7-litre] Prado has a four-cylinder engine, it is mounted longitudinally, whereas the Camry is mounted transversely therefore you have more space to accommodate the battery, electric motor and so on. It is also a front-wheel drive whereas the Prado is four-wheel drive. For the long-term there is a question of whether hybrid continues to be the mainstream. Fuel cell - for which I was in charge of the development - could become the mainstream.
Sadly, Toyota has decided to pull out of Formula One but is that a forecast of the corporation pulling out of other sporting events? HS Not really. This doesn't mean that we will withdraw from all the motorsports activities. We are shifting the resources from Formula One to the development of a sportscar that you can actually buy. How is the corporation dealing with the downturn in global sales?
HS In terms of volume we are seeing significant reductions in comparison to last year which was a record year. This year we will end maybe 20 to 25 per cent down on volume. In terms of the financial situation we are seeing progress in our profit recovery, so hopefully next fiscal year we will come back to some profitable situation. Volume, share and profit are all very important but the president [Akio Toyoda] is always saying we should concentrate on customer satisfaction. Sometimes we forget that philosophy and we try to maximise the volume. In the Middle East the after-sales service is a critical part of the ownership of the vehicle