The Toyota Urban Utility concept was developed by CALTY Design Research in Newport Beach, CA, as a response to the needs of the maker movement, an invention-focused community that is transforming cities with growing entrepreneurship.
Inspired by a growing innovative spirit in urban areas, Toyota has created the Urban Utility — aka U2 — concept; a vehicle specifically designed to cater to the lifestyle and needs of an entrepreneurial, urban driver. It will be unveiled at the World Maker Faire in New York City on September 20th.
Developed by Toyota’s CALTY Design Research in Newport Beach, California, the Toyota U2 concept features a new open architecture and purposeful materials that redefine urban utility. Designers included the ability to roll back the roof, fold down the tailgate into a ramp and customize the interior on a versatile rail system.
“Toyota saw an opportunity for a new approach to an urban vehicle based on increasing re-urbanization of our cities and urban drivers’ desire for flexibility, fun and maneuverability,” said CALTY design studio president Kevin Hunter. “CALTY keeps a number of projects concealed while exploring ideas and products. Revealing a project like the U2 gives people a window into the constant innovation that happens inside Toyota and our CALTY studios and one possible future for urban mobility.”
Toyota research — conducted through interviews with Maker Faire participants and internal market research — showed the fast-growing small SUV segment points to a desire for greater utility but a smaller vehicle footprint. The Toyota U2 concept is the therefore size of a compact car but features the functionality of a compact truck and the spaciousness of a cargo van. It satisfies other key urban driver priorities such as enhanced maneuverability in city environments, easy loading and unloading and decreased fuel consumption as well.
An Exterior for the City
The Toyota U2 concept features a durable underbody and tool-like exterior with a customizable side panel. The iconic, modern design remains playful, with details such as circular door handles and a slightly chunky proportion. The box-like design at the rear emphasizes the storage capabilities.
Highlights of the exterior include roof panels that retract open; rear glass that can slide into the tailgate; a tailgate that folds down into a ramp; and protective, replaceable ridges on the tailgate.
Among the US trends that influenced the CALTY design team was growth in entrepreneurship and Americans’ love of adventure, especially outdoor activities involving gear and equipment.
Drawing on these insights, the U2 concept is a flexible, functional gadget that owners can customize according to individual, on-the-go needs. The retractable utility bar can serve unique uses, such as holding a desk or grocery bag hooks and the side windows flip up for easy access from the roadside.
Other key interior highlights include a versatile utility rail system configurable to hold everything from baskets to bike stands; the ability to fold and remove the front passenger seat; fold-up rear seating; a unique shifter design with and intuitive switch for parking, drive and reverse mode; and an abundance of colors and materials to fit customers’ needs.
Bringing the Urban Utility concept to a Maker community event allowed Toyota to gain feedback from a key audience: “As more products are developed expressly to appeal to Makers and their deep appreciation of design aesthetic combined with open architecture and practical utility, we expect to see more trusted brands like Toyota take an unconventional approach to not only product development but their marketing and launch strategies,” said Sherry Huss, VP and co-founder of Maker Faire. “Leveraging the growing Maker movement and Makers’ broad sphere of influence can impact the success of consumer brands and future products.”