Lately Toyota has been refreshing its products with sadly disappointing interiors. In the eyes of repeat customers, such as Sienna buyers, the latest models are sporting harder, cheaper plastics. Making this more apparent is the recent boost in interior quality of Ford, GM, Chrysler, Hyundai and Kia vehicles. Even Consumer Reports has skewered Toyota over its cheapening ways.
Soon Toyota will be releasing a new 2012 Toyota Camry into the world and many have wondered which way the Japanese brand will go in its efforts to produce a new heir. Will Toyota be content to rest on its laurels, take a few bucks out of the interior and be satisfied with loyal Toyota buyers who never even consider the completion or will Toyota step it up and add some polish to its lackluster cabins? It appears we have an answer in the form of an Automotive News interview with Yoshi Inaba, Toyota North America’s President. Inaba was asked what the key changes will be for the redesigned Camry and the first words out of his mouth were “More emphasis on interior quality that we can show the customer.” Halleluiah!
It has long bothered me that cheap interior parts were justified on the basis of cost savings. I spent some time with automotive supplier Faurecia and they said that the difference in the price of a hard plastic dash and one with soft touch feel is only about a 15 percent price increase in the cost of the part. That means that a small investment in parts can have a huge impact on perceived quality. There really is no good excuse not to step it up and make the improvements. Furthermore, suppliers are constantly inventing ways to lower the cost of heretofore expensive interior treatments. Look at the proliferation of cut and sew dash materials for evidence.
Toyota’s mission would seem to be a simple one: Keep the Camry fresh with a styling change, modest improvements in fuel economy, cabin materials and safety enhancements. The brand does not need to reinvent the wheel, but it does need to stay current with the latest trends and not foolishly squander brand equity with ill-advised penny pinching. It appears that Toyota has heard this message, but only time will tell if the decontenting will continue.
Source: Autmotive News (sub req.)