From time to time, I receive the occasional photo from the wild of some interesting automotive oddity from friends and family. Today’s subject however, I’m forced to admit, had me stumped.
Now, I consider myself to be reasonably authoritative on matters automotive, at least when it comes to the European industry anyway. Admittedly any putative knowledge tends to evaporate once we metaphorically cross the Atlantic but I have rarely if ever failed to correctly identify anything flung my way – until now. Even I had to admit defeat on this one.
What we are looking at is better known as a WiLL Cypha. I expect that unlike me, you (our informed and highly knowledgeable DTW readers) know your Japanese oddities and are incredulously shaking your heads at my ignorance, but for those who do not, WiLL existed as a domestic Toyota sub-brand (of sorts), akin to the now similarly defunct Scion nameplate in the US. Just as Scion was an attempt at shifting the ownership dial towards a younger demographic, WiLL was aimed at the youth market in Japan, and in particular, towards women under 23.
The WiLL brand encompassed an array of products and services, with brands like Asahi and Panasonic joining forces to tap the youth Yen. To some extent then, it was the Toyota equivalent to Nissan’s Pike Factory cars – or indeed the Cube. Based on humble Yaris underpinnings, the Cypha, a shortened version of ‘Cyber Phaeton’ (so now you know), was an exercise in styling over functionality. Dimensionally (and if you squinted really hard, stylistically) similar to the US market Scion xD, the Cypha was introduced in 2002, replacing the even more cartoonesque and shortlived Vi model.
In several respects, Toyota was ahead of the wider industry here, the WiLL-badged cars being offered to customers as a lease rather than an outright purchase. Subscribers paid a monthly fee based upon mileage elapsed, this being transmitted electronically from the car’s built-in media centre to the dealer. This device also housed a sat-nav, could display emails as well as images from the user’s camera phone, while a range of games and navigation maps could also be downloaded from WiLL outlets.
But what perhaps dates the cars’ design and concept more than any other factor is the combination of style and market positioning. Unaggressive if wilfully odd in appearance, the Cypha’s unusual down-the-road-graphics are not of the ‘snarling six year old’ variety that is so favoured now. Similarly, the cars were set up for comfort rather than Nordschleife-busting, which as concepts go, seems almost laughably quaint in 2017.
The WiLL experiment came to an abrupt end in 2004, while Scion limped on until 2016. Now that Waku-Doki appears to be the new black, the remaining WiLL models are rebranded Toyota. So how you might ask did this cosmic voyager from Toyota City beam down in suburban Cork? Well, where there’s a WiLL there’s usually a way.
Did I say black? In this case I actually mean grey – as in import. For such a conservative country, (especially when it comes to matters automotive) cars such as this enjoy a surprising second life, but as has been stated in the past, the land of my fathers is often a place of extremes.