Toyota builds a wooden car designed to be a family heirloom – Treehugger

Posted: Wednesday, March 09, 2016

Given our name, it’s no surprise that we love wood on TreeHugger, and we could hug this new Toyota that’s going to Milan for Design Week in April. There are many things to love about it, starting with the electric drive train. The little two-seater is only ten feet long and 4′-10 wide, barely three feet tall. And there is no word about air bags or crush zones.

Toyota also is building it using traditional joinery techniques (Okuriari) that don’t use screws or nails. In the press release:

Kenji Tsuji, the Toyota engineer overseeing development of the Setsuna, said of his process: “We evaluated various ways to express the concept and selected different lumber materials for specific applications, such as Japanese cedar for the exterior panels and Japanese birch for the frame. We also paid particular attention to the sizes and arrangements of individual parts.

But what is most interesting is Toyota’s attempt at bringing back the attachment to cars that people used to have.

The decision to use wood—a material that is durable yet prone to change over time—reflects Toyota’s efforts to give form to the developing relationships between people and their cars. The Setsuna symbolizes how cars undergo a gradual transformation over the years, as if absorbing the aspirations, memories, and emotions of multiple generations of a family. With the Setsuna concept, Toyota is expressing the notion that, as a family accrues time and experiences together with their car, lovingly caring for it and passing it on to the next generation, that car will acquire a new type of value that only the members of that family can appreciate.

The car’s name—Setsuna, meaning “moment” in Japanese—was chosen to reflect that people experience precious, fleeting moments together with their cars. Toyota believes that, over time, these collective moments make their cars irreplaceable to their owners.

In case your family doesn’t keep good records, the car actually has a 100 year meter “that will keep time over generations.” I do hope that they put it into production; it’s the perfect little car for the garages in all of our new big wood towers.


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