Ken Okuyama, a high end designer from Japan who worked for GM or Porsche as well as Italy’s Pininfarina where he helped create the Ferrari Enzo, warns the days of easy going models such as the Civic or Corolla might be over because of technology companies.
Behemoths such as Google or Apple are venturing into the traditional automotive industry and could forever change the way people own or drive cars. He adds Japan’s position as a key global automotive producer could be threatened by the game-changing autonomous technology. “If they don’t watch out, they risk becoming just suppliers to those (tech) companies,” he said in an interview at his industrial design studio in the Japanese capital just ahead of the innovative Tokyo Motor Show. Okuyama, who became famous for working with Italy’s iconic Pininfarina studio and also worked on models such as the Chevrolet Camaro or Corvette, believes fending off with Google and Apple will be the ultimate challenge for Toyota and global peers.
He further believes traditional automakers are now under pressure to show they can go against the tech giants while writing software becomes fast just as important to auto making as engineering. Google already has been using for years a test fleet of autonomous vehicles – modified Lexus sport utility models and its own designed pod prototypes – while Apple has been reportedly working in secret on an electric semi-autonomous vehicle to be offered before the end of the decade.