September 30, 2002

Article at I.D. Magazine

Toy Transport

It'll take you back to your childhood -- and around town at the same time. That's the idea behind the Q-Car, soon to be targeted at 20- and 30-somethings in Japan. In 1980, toymaker Takara launched a hugely popular line of palm-sized, spring-coiled cars called Choro-Q. Many early users have grown up, but starting sometime this fall they can cruise down memory lane in the Q-Car, a life-size version of the beloved toy.

On an eight-hour charge from a conventional wall socket, the Q-Car lasts 80 kilometers (about 50 miles), maxing out at 60 kph (about 40 mph). Considering the compact design of most Japanese cities, the Q-Car should be fine for everyday use. The single-seater electric vehicle is legal on Japan's roads and doesn't require hefty registration fees and taxes like other vehicles. Best of all, it can be parked like a scooter, making it sugoi benri (very convenient).

The Q-Car debuts in two versions: Modern Times features a classic design, while 2010 sports a futuristic look. Priced at about $8,000, the Q-Car will be sold in car dealerships, toy stores and a hundred or so Uniqlo outlets (Japan's answer to Gap). Sales are projected at about a thousand for the first year.

Toyota affiliate Araco, which makes electric vehicles for the corporate market, supplies the Q-Car's chassis. Choro Q Motors, a Takara subsidiary established in February, adds the originally designed fiber-reinforced plastic bodies and sells and markets the cars. A Japanese dealer called Cox provides after-sales service and maintenance. (Its president, not coincidentally, is a big fan of the toy.)

In the United States, it's easier to picture the cars nestled inside lumbering SUVs than sharing the road with them. But in Japan, where convenience and cuteness are prized -- and where mini-cars already bounce down the streets like enthusiastic puppies -- Q-Cars will turn heads but still fit in.

And for Japan's rapidly aging market, which will fondly remember the Choro-Q, Takara is simply following customers down life's highway.

(PDF version here.)