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Land Cruiser engineer talks about the revival of a classic

Chief engineer Sadayoshi Koyari poses beside a model in the Land Cruiser 70 Series in Nagakute, Aichi Prefecture.

NAGOYA -- Japanese automaker Toyota Motor has revived its Land Cruiser 70 Series of four-wheel-drive vehicles, kicking off a limited, roughly one-year run on Aug. 25. The company stopped selling the series in Japan in 2004, but it decided to bring the rugged cars back in response to requests from nostalgic fans.

     Sadayoshi Koyari, chief engineer of the 70 Series, recently spoke with The Nikkei Business Daily about the appeal of the vehicles his team developed.

Q: Why did Toyota revive the 70 Series?

A: We received many requests from consumers. The 70 Series vehicles have simple designs and are not particularly eco-friendly, but they are prized for their four-wheel drive capability, their key function.

     Also, they are appreciated the world over as an essential tool for living. So we thought, why not sell vehicles that appeal to true car lovers?

     The 70 Series does not sell in huge numbers, and owning one is more like a hobby. But we got the idea of bringing the series back to Japan for just one year to mark the 30th anniversary (of its launch.) We started working in earnest on a relaunch three years ago, with all Toyota executives taking test rides.

     There was no precedent for reviving -- with virtually no changes -- a car that had been off the market for 10 years. But after a lot of discussion, we concluded it would be fun to sell the 70 Series again.

Q: Who will buy them?

A: The Land Cruiser Prado is relatively popular among women, while cars in the Land Cruiser 200 Series are widely regarded as luxury vehicles. People who buy the 70 Series will be those who think driving is fun.

     The 70 Series vehicles have simple designs, so users can do their own maintenance. If the 70 Series can attract young people whose parents once owned one of the cars, the real appeal of the Land Cruiser will take root again in Japan.

Q: What kind of improvements have been made to the series in the past 30 years?

A: The design remains the same, except for the front part. We added airbags and an Anti-lock Brake System because they are now required by law. We also minimized the use of electronic controls. But to meet emissions regulations, we had to give up the idea of no electronic controls for the engine.

     The new 70 Series cars also come with a manual air conditioner. When they were first introduced 30 years ago, the air conditioner was optional. They date back to a time when people simply opened their windows when they wanted to cool down.

Q: How do you plan to improve the 70 Series?

A: The world is such a big place, and the vehicles are sometimes used in unimaginable circumstances. If one breaks down, we will inspect the scene and study ways to make improvements to meet our customers' needs.

     If we change even a single component, we have to conduct vulnerability tests on all remaining components. No matter what, we cannot fail. My job is to further satisfy our longtime customers.

Interviewed by Nikkei staff writer Yumiko Oshima

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