In 1999, Toyota introduced a new and unusual model known as the WiLL-Vi at the Tokyo Motorshow which was aimed at the youth market. It was one of the efforts by Japan’s largest automaker to change public perception of its image which had long been considered ‘conservative'; the new generation of buyers, especially in Japan, were being drawn to more trendy products from rivals which held much more appeal.
Like many of its latest models, the WiLL-Vi exuded uniqueness and yet it did not cost Toyota a lot to build because, under the semi-retro bodywork was the same platform as the Toyota Vitz/Yaris.
For various reasons, Toyota has not exported the 1.3 million yen WiLL-Vi (although private importers in Malaysia have managed to sneak a few into the country) and there are still no plans to do so. However, mindful of the rapid change of tastes of young consumers, Toyota has already begun work on a follow-up which is now being shown in California.
The new WiLL concept car is being shown in the trendsetting American state to enable Toyota designers to get insights into the youth market which could be applicable to Japan.
The development of the latest WiLL Concept Car is a joint effort between WiLL, now a popular brand name for several products in the Japan marketplace, and the Virtual Venture Company (VVC), an organization within TMC. Established in 1997, VVC is charged with giving Toyota a more youthful image and customer base by identifying future trends, developing marketing plans for vehicles positioned toward younger buyers and creating a youth sub-brand strategy.
The WiLL Concept Car is a sporty 5-door vehicle with a less ‘unique’ shape as the WiLL-Vi and has a coupe-like silhouette. The exterior design is composed of a concave surface and sharp character lines. The styling is further enhanced with projector headlamps, and dark tinted glass on the rear doors and hatch.
The interior offers seating for five and a design that complements its vibrant exterior. Unique features include a special instrument panel with red Optitron meters, a slanting centre console, a jetfighter-inspired shift lever and high-back front seats.
For power, the new WiLL uses a 1.8-litre, 4-cylinder 3S-GE engine that also nestles under the hood of Toyota sportscars like the Celica. The 133 kW/180 bhp engine has variable valve timing and lift with intelligence control (VVTL-i) to inject an extra dose of performance from 6000 rpm to the redline at 7800 rpm. VVTL-i increases the intake/exhaust lift when the engine speed is high to improve output and fuel efficiency.
The engine power flows to the front wheels via a 4-speed automatic transmission equipped with sport-shift steering wheel- mounted buttons, similar to a F1 car. The sport-shift feature allows manual shifting of the automatic transmission via buttons embedded in the steering wheel when the gear shift lever is in the “M” mode position. To upshift, simply press one of the two buttons on the back of the steering wheel spokes or one of the two buttons on the front of the spokes to downshift.
VVC is currently studying the possibilities of expanding the WiLL vehicle series that would again be aimed at the youth market, with this WiLL concept expected to become the brand’s second production model later this year. There are still no plans to offer this brand outside Japan.