The car market varies across the world, as we know, and how cars are marketed no less so. But the idea of creating a car brand as an element in an exercise in branding across many sectors, from PCs to cars to beer is a new one to me, and unique to Japan. The WiLL Cypha was the automotive element.
In 1999, a range of Japanese companies, including Toyota, Panasonic, Ezaki Glico confectionery and Asahi Breweries, worked together to build a range of products aimed at 18-30 year old, above average affluence consumers. The WiLL Cypha was one of Toyota’s contributions.
The initial WiLL car was the Vi, an even more distinctively styled vehicle, with echoes of Citroen Ami and 2CV, and even Ford Anglia. That car lasted just two years before being superseded by the more rational hatchback VC, also known as the Cypha.
Both the Vi and the Cypha were based on the 1999-2005 Toyota Yaris/Echo/Vitz hatchback, with a conventional transverse engine, front wheel drive configuration, using 1.3 or 1.5 litre engines, with a four speed automatic gearbox.
Sales were nominally restricted to Japan, and aimed at the aforementioned younger consumers in major metropolitan areas. These people would accept the penalties of style over practically, with reduced luggage space for example, and the love it or hate it styling. Stacked double headlamps in 2002? Still available!
The interior is still distinctive, if a little calmer with a MINI like large centrally mounted circular binnacle. The earlier VC had a bench seat and dash mounted shifter
I saw this car in New Zealand last month, a market that seemingly happily receives pre-owned Japanese market vehicles in a fairly significant numbers. Right hand drive and the rigours of the Japanese testing regime (the infamous shaken) are certainly factors – indeed Japan exports over a million used cars a year. I also saw a WiLL Vi as well, although not when I was in full Curbivore mode.