Section 4. Responding to the Oil Crisis
Item 5. Development of Front-Wheel Drive Vehicles
Following the first oil crisis at the end of 1973, Toyota began developing the Tercel and Corsa in the spring of 1974 in order to respond to rapidly rising societal demands for resource and energy saving.
The aim was to develop a lightweight and economical car with the highest fuel efficiency in its class and an interior space on par with the Corona class that could become a leading product not only in Japan but in the United States as well. Compliance with the Japanese fiscal 1978 emissions regulations, the United States emissions regulations, and safety regulations of each country was an essential requirement of development. As a result, all components including engines were newly developed without conforming to existing productions facilities or vehicle units.
Toyota adopted a front-wheel drive format for the first time in consideration of the benefits in terms of interior space and weight. In addition, the vehicle dimensions were adjusted so that the rear seats could just accommodate three adults in order to minimize the cross-section, a major cause of air resistance. The total length of the interior was set to provide ample legroom even for taller passengers in countries outside of Japan. The newly-developed 1A-U engine (1,452 cc, 80 hp) was mounted longitudinally. This allowed the engine to also be used on the rear-wheel drive Corolla. As a result, the exterior of the Tercel and the Corsa is smaller than the Corolla but provides the most luggage space in its class and the interior space of a vehicle one class higher. In addition, extensive efforts were made to achieve high fuel efficiency including reducing air resistance as well as the weight of the various components.1
The first Tercel (with the AL10-Z engine) and Corsa (with the AL10-L engine) were produced in August 1978. These two vehicles were developed with the highest priority on fuel efficiency at the expense of the styling including a reduced vehicle width, leading to a lukewarm reception in Japan.
In the United States, however, the high fuel efficiency and roomy interior were praised and the styling (while unpopular in Japan) was well received. Repeated improvements were made until the start of exports in August 1979, and the stable quality also had a positive impact. Combining the name with the well-known Corolla to market the vehicle as the Corolla Tercel and setting the price for the two-door sedan base model at a reasonable 3,698 dollars also contributed to the good market reception. Tercel export volumes increased year by year, reaching 183,000 units in 1982.
Development of the front-wheel drive Camry and Vista began in August 1977. A plan was created to develop the Camry into a leading next-generation export product that could compete against GM's compact front-wheel drive cars. The Camry had an interior roominess equal to that of a medium-sized car and a wide-track, trapezoidal styling that conveyed a sense of stability. The engine was mounted transversely to reduce the size of the engine compartment and use the recovered space for the interior.
A new engine was also developed. There were numerous vehicles with internationally high performance in the class, so the aim was to create an exhaustively compact, lightweight engine with high performance and fuel efficiency. Following extensive testing, the 1S-U engine with weight-reduction technologies was transversely mounted as the 1S-LU engine (1,832 cc, 100 hp). The fuel efficiency achieved in 1982 under the 10-mode cycle was high at 14.0 kilometers per liter.
A new design was also adopted for the powertrain. The transaxle is connected in line with the engine, and to create a simple and compact structure, a single rail system that replaces the three shafts normally used for each gear range with a single shaft, was adopted. In addition, automatic transmission fluid was used for the lubricating oil in order to reduce friction. This experience served as the foundation for establishing a series of front-wheel drive vehicles.
The front-wheel drive Camry and Vista were launched in Japan in March 1982. Exports to the United States, Australia, and Europe were good. Exports of the Camry to the United States began in January 1983, and by 1985 it had become a leading product with sales of 128,000 units.