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Opinion | Toyota’s fake vroom: gimmick or game-changer?

If Toyota wants to venture into EVs, why not build an EV that embodies its own simplicity and authentic engineering philosophies?

Well, there was quite the buzz when Toyota announced they were considering simulating manual gearboxes and motor noises in their upcoming EVs. Did anyone ask for this?

Reactions varied from incredulous “Are you kidding me?” to intrigued “Well, that might be cool?” It’s important to note that Toyota isn’t breaking entirely new ground here; the Porsche Taycan and Audi e-tron GT have actual multi-speed transmissions and artificial engine sounds, even though they sound like a kid’s toy.

Still, Toyota’s decision seems like an attempt to marry the past and the future, a longing to let buyers hold onto the essence of classic motoring while embracing the inevitable surge toward EVs. It’s an interesting approach that leads to a roller-coaster of opinions – I’m sometimes skeptical. At others, I see the potential.

The Push for Subscription Income

From a business perspective, Toyota’s foray into sound and feel simulation could be lucrative. A software subscription model offering a range of engine sounds could add a unique layer of personalization appealing to some customers.

Imagine a Prius purring like a V8 with a transmission that feels like a sequential gearbox – ironic, perhaps, but no more so than a Honda Civic sporting a massive rear wing and a carbon fiber splitter or a Land Rover Defender in the pristine suburbs.

Yet, let’s consider the essence of motoring. Recently, I posted a clip about Borla’s “Active Performance Sound System,” a device that turns your silent Mustang Mach E into a roaring V8 Shelby GT500. The near-unanimous response was disbelief. The message was clear – let’s don’t and say we didn’t.

At its core, Toyota’s move dilutes a benefit of the electric motoring experience: silence. There’s a contradiction in adding combustion engine sound to an EV, akin to a sheep in wolf’s clothing. It’s like trying to replicate the taste of a juicy, medium-rare steak in a vegan burger – some things just aren’t the same.

Looking Beyond the Past

In the world of EVs, Tesla has set the pace. They didn’t mimic the sounds of a combustion engine to sell their cars. Instead, their well-designed, silent, powerful EVs stand as a testament to the possibilities of a cleaner, quieter future.

It’s a reminder that the charm of EVs isn’t in recreating the past but forging a new path. So, if Toyota wants to venture into EVs, why not build an EV that embodies its own simplicity and authentic engineering philosophies? Leave well enough alone on EVs.

Better yet, consider this: Toyota and other OEMs should stick with making a line of powerful yet efficient combustion-engine vehicles to give people a choice. EVs are still a luxury. They’re more expensive to buy, cost more to operate, and are not universally practical.

Toyota’s Foresight or an Oversight of Choice?

With rising costs, increasingly long lines at any Tesla superchargers, and fading novelty, there’s a chance the allure of the trusty combustion engine might return. Toyota should add some EVs but keep the sounds to their bevy of powerful combustion engines.

And in case you think that’s silly, stop listening to the government and ask ordinary people. When the lease is up on their Tesla, you’ll hear that many drivers return to the sound and fury of a finely tuned overhead cam engine.

In California, owners were 53% less likely to buy another EV if they did not have access to convenient, at-home charging. With home ownership on the decline, you’ll see more EV abandonment. So, it’s possible that what seems like an odd decision to be gas-engine heavy from Toyota today might just be seen as foresight tomorrow.

The Controversial Nature of Innovation

Innovation often invites controversy. Whether Toyota’s decision is seen as a gimmick or a game-changer is subjective. Personally, I believe the automotive landscape is vast enough for the silence of EVs and the roar of combustion engines. If anything, people always need someone to look down on. After all, variety is the spice of life.

That said, I can’t shake off the image of a winged Prius roaring like a Morizo Edition GR Corolla or, God forbid, a Lexus V10. But you know it will happen.

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Steve Mitchell
Steve Mitchell
Steve Mitchell is a contributing writer and reporter for CBT News. He earned bachelor's degrees in Marketing and Television from the University of Texas in Austin and a Masters of Theology study from Dallas Theological Seminary in Dallas. His passion for automobiles lead him to become a creative director for automotive marketing ad agency. Most recently, he was the manager of interactive marketing for Mitsubishi Motors, NA.

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