TOYOTA CITY, Japan -- Toyota's new global design chief likes to draw a distinction between fashion models and movie stars in his quest to enliven the brand's styling.
Toyota, says Tokuo Fukuichi, is like a cookie-cutter runway model: perfect and flawless -- pleasing to just about anyone's eye -- yet indistinct, forgettable and devoid of character.
What Toyota needs to be is more A-list celebrity. Fukuichi pulls out a collage of head shots of Johnny Depp, Nicolas Cage, Angelina Jolie and Carrie Fisher. Rather than being textbook beautiful, these stars exude auras that are stunning, charismatic, original or impressive, he says.
"If there are 100 fashion models on the catwalk, you probably don't remember the features of the individual models," Fukuichi said in a Sept. 4 interview at the Toyota-Lexus global design headquarters. "But if you consider actors and actresses, they have strong personal characteristics. It doesn't necessarily mean they are all handsome or beautiful. They have a strong individuality."
For Fukuichi, 59, who took over global design at Lexus and Toyota in April, that dichotomy sums up his first task as chief: Take styling risks that are memorable -- for good or bad -- reduce design by committee and cast about less for the widest possible crowd.