Toyota will mark its first appearance at Milan Design Week by unveiling the Setsuna, a new concept car made primarily of wood. The two-seater is simultaneously reminiscent of a both a classic British sports car and a speedboat, and is powered by an electric motor.
The use of wood ― a material that is durable yet changes over time ― reflects Toyota’s efforts to address the always-changing relationships between people and their cars.
To embody this concept, Toyota picked a variety of distinctive types of wood for different parts of the car, including the exterior panels, frame, floor, and seats. Wood provides uniquely appealing characteristics that are not offered in conventional cars: it can last for many generations if properly taken care of and it also changes in coloration and texture in response to its environment (particularly temperature and humidity) and conditions of use, taking on a unique character and depth.
Kenji Tsuji, the Toyota engineer overseeing development of the Setsuna, said of his process: “We evaluated various ways to express the concept and selected different lumber materials for specific applications, such as Japanese cedar for the exterior panels and Japanese birch for the frame.
“We also paid particular attention to the sizes and arrangements of individual parts. For the assembly structure, we adopted a traditional Japanese joinery technique called okuriari, which does not use any nails or screws. The completed body line of the Setsuna expresses a beautiful curve reminiscent of a boat.
“We would also like the viewer to imagine how the Setsuna will gradually develop a complex and unique character over the years. The car includes a 100-year meter that will keep time over generations, and seats that combine functional beauty with the gentle hue of the wood.”