Toyota Accelerates Efforts to Put Young–Very Young–Drivers Behind the Wheel

Don’t you hate it when your eight-year-old throws a tantrum because you’ve taken away his car keys? He kicks the tires of his Toyota and berates you for squelching his lone wolf spirit as he gathers his stuffed Elmo and stomps off into the sunset of his giraffe-wallpapered bedroom.

Parents are accustomed to brands courting their children in an effort to establish brand familiarity and hopefully decades of brand loyalty. Brands know developing positive public relations with children can translate into a lifetime of profits, perhaps even generations. Now, however, kids have the option of growing up with a favorite automobile brand too.

Move over car seats, Toyota is putting kids in the driver’s seat in its latest concept car being showcased at the Tokyo Toy Fair: the Toyota Camatte. At 2.7-meters long and 1.7-meters high, the customizable car runs on a two-pedal system that allows parents to override braking decisions from the back (for those Tiger moms who want to teach their speedster kids some discipline).

Modern technology poses challenges for both brands and parents. PR campaigns must be aggressive and proactive without offending the protective sensibilities of parents. For instance, unhealthy food and beverage brands must walk a fine line when reaching out to children that need their parents’ money to purchase their products.

So one has to ask if Toyota has gone too far in its efforts to reach our children.  Cars are clearly much different than candy. Ultimately it will be up to parents to determine whose hands are on the steering wheel.