Creating the Ideal 21st Century Compact Car

released on May 2008

In 1995, Toyota initiated a "new compact, concept car development project" to replace the aging Toyota Starlet and respond to the emerging issues of fuel consumption and CO2 emissions. As calls for environmental awareness were steadily gaining momentum at the time, Toyota knew more efficient small cars were not only a necessity in the Japanese domestic market, but also in the highly competitive European market, where the compact class accounts for one-third of all vehicles sold.


The sophisticated design of Yaris, which blends in well with the streets of Paris, is extremely popular throughout Europe.

Toyota had wanted to create a vehicle with a unique design sensibility for the European market for some time, and this was the perfect opportunity to do so. With the Yaris, known as Vitz in Japan, the Toyota Europe Office of Creation (EPOC) achieved a breakthrough in compact vehicle design that was compact in size, yet had a spacious and comfortable interior. The Yaris was named after Charis, the Greek goddess of beauty and elegance, while the name Vitz came from the German word witz, which means "wit" and refers to the vehicle′s intelligent design.

During the Yaris design and development process, both EPOC and the Toyota design team in Japan created a number of design assessment models. These models were also used in design clinics in Germany, Italy and the United Kingdom for focus group interviews to gain qualitative research. This friendly rivalry between the two design teams eventually led to a combined pooling of knowledge and resources, culminating in the creation of the Yaris. For EPOC, the Yaris would hold particular significance as their first model design to be selected for mass production.

The Yaris made its public debut at the Paris Auto Salon in October 1998, before being introduced in Japan two months later. The advent of the Yaris shattered the preconceived stereotypes people had about small cars and, in doing so, helped make the car an instant success. Yaris received accolades from both car magazines and motor journalists, and it also had the honor of being named "Car of the Year" in both Europe and Japan.

After the worldwide success of the first generation Yaris, Toyota updated the vehicle in 2005 for a new global audience and changing marketplace, helping to maintain the Yaris′ position as the ideal compact car for the 21st century.

  • Production of the Yaris at Toyota Motor Manufacturing France (TMMF) began in 2001. Shuhei Toyoda, who was a Director, Member of the Board of TMC and a Plant General Manager of the Takaoka Plant at the time, encouraged TMMF employees as they surrounded the first Yaris, saying in French, "The quality is perfect! Let′s keep it up!"

  • The Europe Design Development facility. EPOC was separated from TMME in 2000, renamed Toyota Europe Design Development (ED2) and moved to new headquarters in Nice, France.

  • ED2 designers examine a scale Yaris model.

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