Toyota's Ft - 4x Concept Learned The Wrong Lessons From The Honda Element Experiment


Toyota's FT-4X concept learned the wrong lessons from the Honda Element experiment

When you build a car, there are three groups of people that matter – a love triangle, if everything goes well. There are the marketers who figure out how to sell what the carmaker builds, the critics (read: us) who leverage our experience and knowledge to grade the thing, and then there's the buyer. The latter is by far the most important to a car's success, or failure.

To understand the challenges facing the FT-4X (if it eventually becomes a production model), you need to understand what happens when things get misaligned between these three groups. Maybe the famous Pontiac Aztek comes to mind – it was notoriously the product of the marketers who obstinately insisted that the vehicle would work great for the target demographic. Critics and buyers both panned it; sales fell woefully short of the target, and it shuffled into its punchline afterlife.

But the most relevant lesson that Honda should pay attention to is that of the Honda Element. While the Aztek only got one out of three, the Element nailed two groups. The Element was a soft-roader marketed towards young, active folks, and the marketers thought they had 'em pegged. So did the initial critics, who couldn't believe how outstandingly utilitarian it was without being a total drag to drive.

The catch is that it never sold all that well. Honda got the demographics wrong, and the critics missed the marketing issue and focused on the product's charms. The Element's buyers skewed older and female. The crossover's practicality won out over its cool factor, to a few. But the youthful outdoorsy types didn't buy it, and no other demographic was targeted effectively. That doomed a good crossover to an early death – despite the cult following the Element has even today.

So let's get back to the FT-4X, and we see trouble brewing for Toyota's marketers continue down this path. Every third word in the materials Toyota provided us seems to be "Millennial", and those Millennials don't come off looking so great – a buyer that doesn't seem to be able to plan a real getaway out of the urban environment that the FT-4X is expected to dwell in.

 

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Toyota's FT-4X concept learned the wrong lessons from the Honda Element experimentToyota's FT-4X concept learned the wrong lessons from the Honda Element experimentToyota's FT-4X concept learned the wrong lessons from the Honda Element experiment

Toyota's FT-4X concept learned the wrong lessons from the Honda Element experimentToyota's FT-4X concept learned the wrong lessons from the Honda Element experimentToyota's FT-4X concept learned the wrong lessons from the Honda Element experiment

Toyota's FT-4X concept learned the wrong lessons from the Honda Element experimentToyota's FT-4X concept learned the wrong lessons from the Honda Element experimentToyota's FT-4X concept learned the wrong lessons from the Honda Element experiment

Toyota's FT-4X concept learned the wrong lessons from the Honda Element experimentToyota's FT-4X concept learned the wrong lessons from the Honda Element experimentToyota's FT-4X concept learned the wrong lessons from the Honda Element experiment