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Toyota Unveils New-Concept 'ECHO,' Designed for Youth Appeal

4 January 1999

Toyota Unveils New-Concept 'ECHO,' Designed for Youth Appeal From the Inside, Out

DETROIT, Jan. 4 -- Toyota Motor Sales (TMS) U.S.A., Inc., today unveiled ECHO, an all-new approach to meeting the unique demands of young new-car buyers.

"ECHO is the first in a line of vehicles being developed by Toyota to target the specific, unique demands of young new-car buyers," said Don Esmond, Toyota Division vice president and general manager, at the car's world premiere press conference at the North American International Auto Show. "The emergence of the post-boom generations and specifically the NetGen, represent a phenomenal change in the way car companies will do business over the next decade. Not just because it is large and therefore important, but because it is so different from previous generations."

ECHO was designed for strong youth appeal from the inside, out, with interior roominess and styling that clearly departs from convention. It was designed to be simple, functional and affordable, while delivering a level of comfort and driveability that is one-class-up from what consumers expect from an entry-level sedan. When it arrives at Toyota dealerships this fall, ECHO will be offered in both two- and four-door models. It will be price- positioned substantially below the Toyota Corolla, yet it will offer more passenger volume than Mercedes C-class.

ECHO's departure from conventional design and traditional development methods was the key to creating a vehicle with a sense of value to young new- car buyers. Young subcompact sedan buyers purchase vehicles for very practical reasons, and none are more important than affordability.

Not only did Toyota engineers prioritize cost efficiencies that will result in a low initial cost to the consumer, they also considered how affordable the car needed to be over the long term. ECHO will be one of the highest mileage vehicles ever offered in America by Toyota and it will rank among the most fuel-efficient vehicles in the industry. It also will be one of the most economical Toyotas ever built in the areas of periodic maintenance and parts replacement costs. And, when ECHO has finally reached the end of its useful life cycle, a very high percentage of its parts will be recyclable.

ECHO offers the interior roominess of a compact sedan within the exterior dimensions of a typical subcompact. This is achieved by taking a new approach to vehicle packaging, which combines a tall profile and a cab-forward silhouette. The high roof provides exceptional headroom and allows for a more upright seating position, resulting in reduced driver fatigue and better visibility. The cab forward design allows for increased overall interior length. The layout also combines the low floor height of a sedan with a high seating position similar to an SUV or minivan, which greatly enhance ingress/egress.

ECHO's unique instrument cluster is center-mounted, high on the dash, rather than directly in front of the driver. Because of the greater distance from the driver's eyes to the instruments, refocusing between the road and the display takes less time. The driver can retrieve information quicker and there is less eye stress and strain.

Clearly styled and appointed to appeal to young buyers, ECHO will offer audio system choices of exceptional high quality for this segment. It will also feature a rare abundance of storage space, with dedicated CD bins, large door pockets, seatback pockets and split glove boxes.

ECHO will be powered by an all-new 1.5-liter twin-cam four-cylinder engine featuring Toyota's VVT-i variable-valve timing technology. Similar in design to the VVT-i systems available on Lexus products, the new 1.5-liter twin-cam four-cylinder engine will deliver an exceptional blend of power and fuel economy and will be EPA-certified as a low-emission vehicle (LEV).

The engine will feature an alloy block-and-head and new plastic composite intake manifold, further contributing to the vehicle's low curb weight of less than 2,000 pounds. With engine output estimated at approximately 108 horsepower, ECHO's favorable power-to-weight ratio contributes to zero-to-60 acceleration performance on a par with Civic, Neon and Escort in preliminary tests. ECHO's impressive acceleration performance is complimented with equally impressive fuel economy, which is estimated at nearly 45 mpg combined in preliminary tests.

The three-box ECHO body structure was developed to set new standards in the class in the areas of low NVH, ride comfort and handling. It also will provide exceptional occupant safety. In preliminary 40 mph offset crash tests, ECHO is achieving similar A-pillar distortion and toe board intrusion as that of the much-larger Camry. Standard equipment on the ECHO will include dual air bags and seat belt pre-tensioners and force limiters. ABS and daytime running lights will be optional later in the model year.

"ECHO is a dramatic shifting of gears for Toyota," said Esmond. "It is a product of the realization that new concepts---with a new style and a new attitude -- will be required to meet the needs of very young ... and very savvy ... new-car buyers.

"Toyota's strategy in developing products for this emerging force in the American marketplace is to offer widely diverse products ... at very affordable price points. Some may fit neatly into existing market segments. Most will not. And that, we feel, is at the core of appealing to this buyer."