The latest Toyota concept isn't debuting at the Tokyo Motor Show; it's debuting at the International Tokyo Toy Show. Without the benefit of a background reference, the Camatte concept looks like it could be a new subcompact car. In a way, it is, but it's not designed for the average commuter. It's a working car designed for kids.
While it may not be on par with a pint-sized Ferrari, the Camatte concept takes the idea of a kids' car well beyond the Power Wheels that you might remember playing with (or wanting to own) as a kid. The car features a more realistic interior with an instrument cluster, adjustable seats, gas pedal, steering wheel and brakes. Toyota doesn't give any indication of the engine, but the concept is designed to drive similarly to an actual car.
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Toyota says that the idea of the Camatte is to "convey the joy and dreams of motor vehicles to current and future drivers." There's also a family bonding element to the concept - the three-seat, 1+2 layout lets the child take the wheel while interacting with his parents in the back. The car's body panels can be removed, allowing children to change colors and customize the look of their cars. Toyota also says that children and families can directly handle vehicle components and gain a better understanding of how cars work.
While such a complex car for kids might seem strange, it could actually be a smart product. Studies show an increasing disconnect between young adults and driving. Just a generation ago, a car was the most exciting gift or purchase of many people's youths. Today, kids tend to be more excited about technology like smartphones and computers. A study last year by technology research firm Gartner found that almost half of drivers ages 18 to 24 would rather have internet access than a car.
If it were to ever see production, the Camatte concept could certainly give children more of an appreciation for the automobile and get them excited about driving from a young age. The car's hands-on approach could give them a better understanding and comfort level in terms of maintaining, repairing and customizing their vehicle. By allowing them to actually drive in a similar manner to a traditional car, it could also take away the intimidation that comes with a teenager's first fateful days on the road.
Toyota didn't create the concept for public road use and emphasizes it would be for non-public settings like go kart courses. Two Camatte models will be on display at the Tokyo Toy Show, which runs Thursday through Sunday this week. The Camatte Sora looks like a classic mini car, and the Camatte Daichi is more of a Land Cruiser-inspired off-roader. Toyota says the Camatte was designed "firmly as a concept" with no plans for production, so it remains a child's fantasy and parents' nightmare.
The video below shows a closer look at the construction of the Camatte.