The Strategist

Japanese Car Producers Can be Pushed Out From Their Leading Positions

10/27/2015 - 15:25

The days of "cheap and cheerful cars," such as the Honda Civic and Toyota Corolla, may be numbered. They will be replaced by unmanned vehicles developed by Google and Apple, said the Japanese car designer Ken Okuyama, who has developed looks of Ferrari F60 Enzo and Porsche Boxster.

In his interview to Reuters, Okuyama believes that changing driving technology also can threaten Japan's position as a major automobile manufacturer. "If they [the Japanese producers] do not look around, they run the risk of simply becoming suppliers of these [high-tech] companies," - he said.

Writing code for the automotive industry is becoming as important a task as engineering, so Japanese companies should show that they can compete with the "giants of the technology," writes Reuters.

According to Okuyama, cars are becoming more automated, and in the near future, the car market can be divided into two camps: the conventional cars to simply satisfy the need for movement, and "super luxurious" cars for rich people. As a result, demand for conventional vehicles, such as Civic (the most popular model Honda), will decline, added Okuyama.

Cars have to become more functional and affordable, he says, and Japanese manufacturers need to pay more attention to the advanced technology in the automotive industry - the area where they have been lagging behind for years.

- The autopilot will eventually become commonplace. As a result, car manufacturers will sell not only the hardware but also the whole system on driving, "- concludes Okuyama. Companies such as Mercedes and Toyota, is paying some attention to this area, but ¬ęGoogle is leading in this game," he said.

As noted by Reuters, the Japanese companies Toyota, Honda and Nissan are going to introduce the unmanned car models by 2020. At the same time, Google has already introduced drones and tested them on US roads. Apple is going to present a car with the autopilot by 2019.

The company Tesla has already released the car with the autopilot. However, soon after, there appeared problems with driving. The Tesla drivers are asked not to rely entirely on autopilot, and keep their hands on the steering wheel just in case.

Note, that Google has launched a project to develop technology for the automatic (without human intervention) driving in 2009. However, the company publicly announced it a year later. The software was named Google Chauffeur.


In May this year, Google introduced a car completely designed by the company. It does not have a steering wheel, throttle and brake pedals. At the same time, it is able to drive completely without human intervention.

Prior to that, the company experimented with the hybrid Toyota Prius, Audi TT and Lexus RX450h. In April, a group of engineers announced that these vehicles have passed without human intervention over 1.1 million kilometers without any incidents.

 Now automated vehicles on public roads are authorized by legislation of four US states - California, Nevada, Florida and Michigan, as well as the Federal District of Colombia. Representatives of the "big three" major US automakers - GM, Ford and Chrysler - have repeatedly expressed skepticism in connection with Google's plans to build a car that can move without human intervention.