Looking Out - The Podcast

EP09 - The Criticism of The Century: why Toyota's new SUV is a bit of a lump, and why it's important to be able to say that out loud.

October 17, 2023 Drew Smith & Joe Simpson Season 1 Episode 9
Looking Out - The Podcast
EP09 - The Criticism of The Century: why Toyota's new SUV is a bit of a lump, and why it's important to be able to say that out loud.
Show Notes Chapter Markers

This episode is *really* visual. To see our line-by-line review of the Toyota Century SUV in real time, watch along at https://youtu.be/BtDJNCnuVlY?si=WAzJXEJ55_KeWa8c

Criticism and the automotive industry make for uncomfortable bed fellows.

We put so much heart and soul in to creating a car that when someone points out its flaws, it can be like being told that someone doesn't like our child.

Except the cars we design are not our children.

They're manufactured products that have an enormous impact on the world around us.

They influence the way we think and behave.

They shape our understanding of public space and how we share it.

And they consume vast quantities of natural resources in their manufacture and use.

So, as car designers and design strategists, alongside the engineers, product planners, and leadership we work with, we reckon we have a responsibility to question intently the impact that our work has, and to think deeply about what we have to do better.

That the Toyota Century SUV is the object of our critique in this episode is almost neither here nor there. There are any number of new cars that fail to meet the needs of the moment in which we find ourselves.

But as way to understand how design and product planning decisions can have such a remarkable impact on the perception of a brand, the big SUV, and the way it toys with the ethos and mythos of Century, is hard to miss.

We’re not here to denigrate or mindlessly criticise.

We are here to get people to look up from their day-to-day, look out for the shifts and signals that are going to impact their work, and connect the dots that lead to a more sustainable, more equitable future.

With this episode, we’re making our first, messy, and very public attempt to create a template for having critical conversations about the future of the automotive industry, and the role of design within it. We're not going to get it right first time, but we'll keep trying.

So whether you yelp in agreement with us, or shake your fist with rage that we dared question the status quo, take this as an invitation to speak up and share your views, not just with us, but with the Looking Out community.

Over the coming months, we’ll be developing a series of Looking Out interviews. Our aim is to present a diverse set of perspectives on where we should be headed. And if you’re reading this newsletter, or listening to or watching the podcast, chances are you’re someone we’d love to hear from, or you know someone we should speak to.

So drop us a line at theautomobilitygroup gmail.com and let’s start a conversation.

That's it for this episode! Thanks for listening.

If you like what you hear, please leave a review for us on your favourite podcasting platform. It helps other folk like you find us!

And you can sign up for Looking Out - The Newsletter, the sidekick to our podcast, here: automobility.substack.com

EP09 - The Criticism of The Century - Looking Out - The Podcast
The background to the Toyota Century SUV
Why review the Century SUV?
The Century SUV Design Review
But why make a Century SUV?
The good stuff and a glaring omission
Feel the thiccness, but look at those lovely character lines!
Raise the roof! Actually, please lower it...
Don't look down! Or how to disguise depth.
How not to dress your size
What the roof pillars reveal
The challenges of building a luxury car on a FWD platform
What makes a car special?
Where did the wheelbase go?
Stuck in the middle: overhangs balanced front ant back
Cars as avatars
Criticism and the car industry
Addressing the elephant in the room
Looking Out's mission
The danger of criticism
The immense challenges of designing a car
Challenging the desinger's perspective
Chris Bangle on the challnges of an outside perspective
The car designer as industrial sculptor
The car industry's dirty diversity problem
A vision of hope and a call to arms