Toyota: Changing Landscapes

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Al-Futtaim has been at the very forefront of the shared journey of success between the UAE and Japan. As proud representatives of Japan’s most iconic automotive brands — Toyota, Lexus and Honda, Al-Futtaim Automotive epitomises the strong economic relations, shared cultural values and prosperous partnerships that continue to thrive between the two nations

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Published: Wed 14 Dec 2022, 11:53 AM

Engineering a green future: The hybrid history

In the 80s, Japanese car makers were conquering the world. However in the 90s, things were a bit different. The onset of an economic slump and a strong Yen were crimping exports. Despite this, Toyota didn’t lose its inventiveness. The company was preparing to create history at the 1995 edition of Tokyo Auto Show In the presence of many Al-Futtaim Motors representatives, Toyota first introduced their hybrid-electric concept at the Tokyo Auto Show in 1995. It was a parallel-hybrid, shaped in the belief that hybrid technology was a way of providing customers with the benefit of high-mileage and clean operation. By 1997, Toyota revealed a four-door compact car with a twist. Instead of relying solely on gasoline, the car also featured an electric motor that worked together with the gasoline engine to maximise fuel efficiency. With styling borrowed from the popular compact Corolla, the original Prius was not designed to turn heads, but rather connect with conscious, future-driven minds. Its fuel efficiency spoke for itself, getting more than 40 miles per gallon. In 1998, the Prius’ first full year of sales, Toyota shifted more than 17,000 units in Japan. By 2007, Toyota had sold its first million hybrids. The company’s investment on clean technology, and the future of the planet had paid off handsomely — both for Toyota and the future of the planet.

Today, Toyota takes pride in a strong and ever-popular lineup of hybrid models, providing the same incredible comfort, performance and reliability of their traditional models.

From the striking aerodynamic design of the Toyota Prius to the style and comfort of the Camry Hybrid; from the practical and widely-selling Corolla Hybrid to the spacious SUV Highlander Hybrid and the next-gen crossover Rav 4 Hybrid; Toyota’s hybrid range covers every need and every class of driving preference — clearly making a statement that the road to the future is one that explores energy efficiency and green mobility.

Going from Trucial States to the UAE

It was 1955 when the Al Futtaim family was appointed as the exclusive Toyota distributor across the Trucial States. Japan’s bold decision, and Hamad Al Futtaim’s inspiration, would create one of the most successful and enduring relationships in the global automotive industry. It was a time when mostly rugged landscapes shaped the terrain. But where others saw rugged landscape, the Al Futtaim family saw a moment of opportunity. Instead of opting for the popular and quite flamboyant British and American cars of those times, the Al Futtaims preferred to put their faith in the durability, reliability and high performance standards of the Toyota Land Cruisers. And thus began the everlasting legacy of Toyota in the UAE.

The first shipment of Toyotas to Dubai would include a mixture of the early 20 series and the remarkably improved BJ25 Land Cruiser model, a metal top and doors with roll-down windows with air conditioning as an option. It would be powered by the F-type engine, a 3.8L 105 hp OHV six-cylinder petrol unit, considered a somewhat revolutionary upgrade from the old B-series engine.

The basic 4×4 was ideal, its toughness and go-anywhere capabilities ideally suited to the challenges of life on the Trucial Coast. This was also ideal from Toyota’s perspective and its vision, architected under the company’s ‘Land Cruiser Strategy’, which clearly positioned the Land Cruiser as not merely another vehicle to be sold, but rather as the company’s brand ambassador globally. The Land Cruiser would set the brand’s credibility, and the other cars would follow.

Around 30 cars were initially ordered, a major commitment in the 1950s for a large Trucial States trading family. They would take a couple of months to arrive. When delivered, the vehicles would initially be stored at a holding area. Back in 1955, the concept of total cost of ownership was somewhat non-existent. Yet Al-Futtaim promised to bring in a full-time mechanic and a garage full of genuine spare parts, which was unheard of in those times. There were no proper dealerships or service centres, owners were left to their own devices. Al-Futtaim’s promise to take care of the owners’ cars in the fifties was the foundation of a long-established lineage of customer-centric strategies that has set both Al-Futtaim and Toyota apart over the decades.

“The synergy between Al-Futtaim Motors and Toyota Motor Corporation has been fundamental to our success over the past 60 years,” says Omar Al Futtaim, CEO of Al-Futtaim Group. “It has been something special, an honour, to have received the confidence of our leaders in the Emirates. For Al-Futtaim Motors to have been able to put something back, to serve the nation and be part of the journey that has seen our country grow into the modern 21st century nation we see today, has been quite breathtaking.”

The future arrives

In 1992, Toyota first seeded the development of hydrogen fuel cell electric vehicles. After years of research and perfecting the technology, Toyota successfully launched the Toyota Mirai in 2014 as the company’s first commercially produced hydrogen fuel-cell electric vehicle (FCEV). Launched with global aplomb, followed by applause from automotive enthusiasts and conservationists, Toyota leaps into a new future

When it comes to alternative fuel technology, Toyota has pushed the boundaries to what’s possible. The company envisions the creation of a sustainable hydrogen society that recognises the importance of hydrogen as a viable and plentiful source of carrying and storing energy. It has the potential to deliver zero carbon mobility, not just in road vehicles but equally in trains, ships and planes, and to generate power for industry, businesses and homes.

The breakthrough was achieved when Toyota Mirai was introduced to take the FCEV technology to a higher level. Advanced to its core, the Toyota Mirai generates power by combining hydrogen with oxygen from the outside air. The Mirai is a ‘plug-less’ electric vehicle and instead of charging for several hours, the Mirai is filled with compressed hydrogen fuel in just about five minutes, with water as the only tailpipe emission. Groundbreaking in concept and engineering, the practicality of hydrogen FCEV will only increase as markets improve their hydrogen infrastructure.

Apart from the advanced green technology, one of the key developments focuses in the Mirai was to create stronger emotional appeal, making it a car that not only plays its part for the future, but looks its part too. Mirai’s low, wide and long stance is the perfect mix of sport and luxury, while its striking design and strong proportions lend an air of authority and form while steering into the future.

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