TOKYO--Toyota expects to sell the small, four-seat iQ in the United States after it improves the car's safety equipment.
The Japanese version starts at 1.4 million yen ($13,860). The car goes on sale in Japan on November 20 and in Europe in early 2009. Toyota is targeting monthly sales of 2,500 units in Japan and 6,000 in Europe. Last week, chief engineer Hiroki Nakajima said he expects a U.S. launch in the "midterm," before the first model update. The company needs to develop different airbags and improve bumper strength to help the iQ pass U.S. safety standards, he said. The car comes with a 1.0-liter gasoline engine in Japan, but there is room under the hood for a 1.5-liter powerplant if more output is needed for American drivers, Nakajima said.
The iQ uses a new platform and blends several innovations, including a small air conditioner and an unusual transmission placement, to eke out extra cabin space from the car's 118-inch length. The iQ is Toyota's first production vehicle to exhibit "vehicle packaging innovation," an engineering push prioritized five years ago within the company, Nakajima said. The idea is not simply to downsize a car but to rethink the entire way its components fit together.
(Source: Automotive News)