Tatsuo Hasegawa, Development leader of the first generation, first came up with the concrete concept for the Corolla in the latter half of 1962. Based on his experience with the Publica (1961-1978), considered Toyota's starting point in family cars, Hasegawa proposed an entirely new vehicle plan. The Publica was a car that pursued practical utility and economy and focused on achieving a retail price of 360,000 Japanese Yen*. However, with those simplified specifications and features, vehicle sales remained stagnant without gaining much support from the general public. At that time, the purchase of a car was one of the dreams of the general public, and more than mere utility, the public wanted a car in which they could be proud — a car that portrayed a sense of luxury. Hasegawa reflected on that time, stating: "Since that time, the market has demanded attractive vehicles, vehicles that don't seem inferior when compared to others and vehicles that appear even somewhat luxurious. If we consider these types of market needs, the Publica probably looked somewhat cheap."
- * Average monthly salary in 1961 was 26,000 Japanese Yen.
"Existing parts can't be used to meet the demands of the upcoming era." With that in mind, a concept was launched that called for a newly developed vehicle, including the engine and suspension, and full-scale developments were started in 1963, the following year. However, the go-ahead for this plan was not easily obtained. The development of a new vehicle required a huge expenditure amounting to several billion yen. In addition, Toyota was experiencing rapid growth; each time a new vehicle was developed, equipment investments of several tens of billions of yen were made and new plants were constructed. For that reason alone, failures in new vehicle developments were not allowed, and a cautious start was taken. At first, approval was given for only the development of a new engine. Eventually, a new plant costing 30 billion yen (approximately 300 billion today) was constructed for this Corolla alone. With this, operations at the current Takaoka Plant were started.
The policy of the initial plan established goals for "1000cc (1.0-liter) engine displacement and a maximum output of 45ps/5500rpm," both considerably difficult challenges for that time. While it was understood that that OHC (overhead cam) was an effective measure in creating a high performance engine, the team lacked experience in design and abandoned the idea. Instead, an OHV (overhead valve) was selected. A concept was reached to achieve results similar to the OHC by configuring the camshaft in the highest possible position of the cylinder block and shortening the push rod as much as possible. However, information was received that engine displacements of competitive family cars were likewise reaching 1.0-liter, so the policy objectives were quickly changed for an engine displacement of 1.1-liter and developments proceeded. As a result, compared to the competition, an extremely high level engine was completed.
With the plan calling for numerous new developments and technologies, there were many opposing voices within the company. In fact, troubling points were apparent. One troubling point in particular was that there were very few previous examples of the compact, lightweight MacPherson strut based front suspension adopted for the first time in a Japanese vehicle. One incident during testing — the first prototype vehicle could only travel a mere 500 meters — symbolizes how difficult new developments can be. For Hasegawa, whose responsibility was to keep encouraging the engineers, this was hard to stomach. Prototypes and tests were repeated time and time again. Two-and-a-half years after developments were first started, the team finally was able to see the light at the end of the tunnel, and the suspension, which serves as the standard suspension configuration for many vehicles today, was completed.
Developments steadily progressed. About one year before the vehicle was released, overseas expansion was considered, and a plan for export to the United States was developed. According to the Design Plan Policy — document put together by Hasegawa that summarized the Corolla development concepts, "In the future, the Corolla will compete both in Japan and overseas with European made cars in the same class, and the superiority of the Corolla over the competition will be ensured through 'performance' and 'economic efficiency.'" From its early stages, developments were focused on export, and it is evident that the team targeted the Corolla to open up new markets and be competitive overseas.
Hasegawa diligently advocated a design concept called the "80 Point Doctrine +α" to hold engineers responsible for each area of development. Not even one failing point was allowed. However, an all-around score of 80 was not acceptable. Hasegawa believed if the vehicle did not possess some sort of +α (extra) characteristics that would allow the vehicle to exceed 90 points in some areas, the vehicle could not capture the hearts of the general public. He defined that "+α" as a "sporty image" for the Corolla and adopted it as a major guideline for developments.
Based on this major guideline, the staff of each department endeavored tirelessly. The first generation Corolla was created as a vehicle filled with advanced technologies, many of which were firsts for domestically produced vehicles and world firsts for family cars. With these technologies, the sporty character became readily apparent — in a glance and in the first time the car was driven. The "+α = sporty image" appeal was successfully achieved in its design and equipment.