May. 30, 2017

Feature: Interview with Sumie Teraoka, Designer of the 2017 Camatte

 

Camatte Petta

Camatte (verb)―to love and care for others, and caring for cars

That is the term which Toyota's series of concept vehicles has been derived from, Sumie Teraoka excitedly describes to us. Without missing a beat, she introduces to us her latest creation―this year's model named the Camatte Petta. Children are given a choice of 5 large magnet designs to stick (described as "petta" in Japanese) on the hood and trunk of the car. After deciding on the design, the child is able to drive in the vehicle in the mini driving school "Camatte School" which will be set up at the Toyota booth during this year's International Tokyo Toy Show in Japan.

Concept Image of the Camatte School at the Toyota Booth
Camatte School Driving License

When asked why Toyota prioritizes the child's decision, and comes out with a new Camatte design and activity annually, the designer of the 2017 Camatte states that the agency of the child is the top priority, to give them the voice to be able to express themselves, which mirrors adult actions. This also explains the rationale for establishing the Camatte School drive course, where like grown-ups, children can learn basic driving techniques, and obtain a provisional driving license which Toyota has created. Another aim that Toyota has through the Camatte concept car is to provide a space where children and their parents are able to communicate through the decision-making design process, as well as to talk about their hands-on experience when driving the Camatte Petta.

Teraoka believes that through these activities, the child's confidence will be boosted, and their interest will be engaged when they are able to interact on decisions that conventionally are limited to adults. In addition, Toyota believes that the emotive expression and intention of the Camatte project is of utmost importance. The company hopes that by using the car as a symbol where children are able to make happy associations with, they will hopefully grow up to be next-generation fans of cars.

Camatte Petta

Teraoka also lets us in on a trivia that may go unnoticed, as she leans forward earnestly with her face splitting into a gummy grin when asked for a "Camatte Petta secret". She begins, "just like twins or siblings are not hundred percent identical, this year's two Camatte concepts are also unique in their own ways if you observe closely enough". The two Camatte Petta models are intricately handcrafted, and each and every curve is difficult to even replicate. Furthermore, like a puzzle, the hood can be easily removed and fitted with past Camatte designs if one wishes to.

With years of experience in Toyota as an engineer, including having worked on the interior of the Lexus RX, Teraoka is now based in the New Concept Planning Department of Toyota's Mid-size Product Planning Division. While she usually works on the planning of future vehicle lineups, the jaunty engineer has been the designer of the Camatte since 2015. Her passion for igniting smiles on young children's faces is reflected in her enthusiasm when recalling her experience so far in the planning and designing stages of the new Camatte.

Sumie Teraoka
Sumie Teraoka

Teraoka learnt firsthand of the challenges in trying to convey the fun of driving from young children's perspectives, while also trying to incorporate the aspects of driving safely. This, she says, has been a critical factor that is constantly being reiterated during her design planning process. One of the features she explains, was to ensure that children will have the opportunity to experience the actual process of obtaining a driving license, including steering wheel operation and how to accelerate while children tend to go flat out with the accelerator. Through the design process, she has been undeterred by the challenges involved, and have derived her satisfaction from knowing that the Camatte vehicle has been completed at high quality standards, that would hopefully engage the interest of the child in automobiles.

Camatte Sora
Camatte Sora

Started in 2012 with the first Camatte Sora and Camatte Daichi, new Camatte concepts are exhibited and introduced annually at the International Tokyo Toy Show. The show is said to be one of Japan's most important fair for toys, and has existed since 1962 under different names. The motto of the toy show is a play on words, with the aim to "make the world smile". This year's show runs from June 1-4, with a range of exhibitors that includes Toyota on the list.

In line with this motto, the main theme that Toyota has for the Camatte is to allow for family fun, car customization and to encourage car enthusiasm. This, Teraoka emphasizes with importance. In her bright green t-shirt with the Camatte logo, she rounds up the interview with a message for her audiences saying "Enjoy the ride! I hope that someday, you will fondly recall the memories of designing a car that you were able to call your own, and driving this original Camatte Petta together with the family. And If I could add one final comment, I hope that the children will come to love driving cars in the future. Well, hopefully that of Toyota!"