A booth full of concept cars is nothing new at an auto show. This year at the Japan Mobility Show, though, Toyota called its entire booth a concept. The concept was “Find Your Future,” and it was meant to show how electric vehicles can be fun and flexible in ways that internal combustion vehicles can’t.
Toyota also highlighted an internal combustion vehicle that offers even more flexibility than its concepts. One will go on sale in Asia in the next few months, while the others may never see pavement.
The highlight was a sharp-looking electric sports car concept called the FT-Se. Toyota didn’t provide many details, but it described what the concept means for future production Toyota EVs.
Company President and CEO Koji Sato said the FT-Se tells a story of “our future life with battery EVs,” saying that the company believes “they are not only eco-friendly; electric cars also offer their own flavor of driving fun and automotive seasoning.”
Seemingly acknowledging that Toyota has trailed behind other car companies, especially electric vehicle startups, Sato said the company would be “making battery EVs like only a true carmaker can.” This, he said, means “revisiting the fundamental principles of car making.”
His example in the FT-Se was that the company could make a car with both a low center of gravity and a spacious cabin. While the sleek and low concept looks like a rebirth of the MR2 sports car, Sato suggested it would not have the interior compromises of previous sports cars.
He saved talk of the thinner batteries that would help make it possible for Chief Branding Officer Simon Humphries at the Lexus conference later in the day. Humphries presented two concepts from that brand, which included one set for production in 2026.
Those concepts showcased new large-size gigacasting techniques that would reduce vehicle complexity. The LF-ZC also showed Toyota’s planned thinner battery packs that are aiming for a range figure more than double the brand’s current sub-500-km (around 300 miles) EVs.
But Sato described the need for the company to “make the main components much smaller and lighter and deploy our strengths as a carmaker to put them together in the best package possible.” By doing that, Sato said, “the design, the driving feel, and everything else can be transformed.”
Sato did not say anything to indicate that the FT-Se concept could see production, but some prior hints add up to make it possible. The concept car bears a strong resemblance to the Sports EV concept Toyota showed off in December of 2021. At that conference, then-President and CEO Akio Toyoda suggested that a GR-branded sports EV was set to arrive in 2026.
One of the goals Toyoda set for that future production model was to have the EV equipped with a manual transmission, including a clutch pedal. He said that it would produce “engine noises even if you can’t smell gasoline.” The FT-Se could be that car.