Toyota sells its vehicles all over the world and because climatic and road conditions differ greatly, it has always been important to ensure that the products are engineered properly and tuned to cope with the conditions they will be used in. For example, vehicles sold in Middle Eastern countries have special attention given to preventing sand from entering the engine and cabin while in Southeast Asia, extra ground clearance is necessary to be able to cross flooded roads. In this way, Toyota ensures that its vehicles will be durable and reliable for a long time.

Even with tools like Google Earth as well as powerful computers to carry out simulations, it is still important to actually experience and see the conditions to have a good understanding. The Japanese have a phrase for it – ‘genchi genbutsu’, which means ‘to go and see for yourself what is happening’. It is also an important aspect of the Toyota Production System as it requires people to personally investigate rather than rely on reports.

In late August, the carmaker will commence the fifth leg of its ‘5 Continents Drive Project’, this time in Africa. The continent has the second largest surface area and population of any continent in the world. It will be the fourth continent in the project which began in Australia in 2014, followed by the Americas in 2015 and 2016, and Europe in 2017. Since the project commenced, 480 employees have driven for 350 days over 89,000 kms.

This time, members from Suzuki Motor, Hino Motors, and Toyota Auto Body will also join the project. By experiencing the unique culture, climate, and harsh conditions in which vehicles are used, the project seeks to enable participants to better understand customer needs, and to consider what sort of cars will be most suited to the Africa of tomorrow.

The 5 Continents Drive Project is being carried out under the umbrella of Toyota GAZOO Racing. Toyota employees from Japan and local affiliates take the wheels of the cars themselves and drive the roads used daily by customers with the aim of developing human resources that can flourish in the making of ‘ever-better cars’.

The project will run till the beginning of November, mainly covering eastern and southern Africa with two teams. Teams primarily comprising employees from local distributors are also scheduled to drive in other regions. In total, approximately 15,000 kms will be covered with vehicles such as the Land Cruiser, Hilux and Fortuner.

“Our ‘5 Continents Drive Project’ was born from the idea that in order to make ever-better cars, we need to better understand the world’s roads. For this stage of the project, we welcome members from Suzuki, Hino, and Toyota Auto Body to participate. Each company has its own field of specialty, developed over a number of years. Driving the same roads and confronting the difficulties as a united team, we will be able to learn things we never knew from each other―and I believe that this will enable us to more fully understand the roads of Africa,” said Akio Toyoda, President of Toyota Motor Corporation.”

“Previously when driving across Africa, I have always felt cars are not merely a means of transport; instead, they are indispensable to both enable people to go about their daily routines and also protect their lives. What type of ‘cherished vehicle’ do people genuinely desire? What sort of happiness do cars give them? I have great hopes our team members will return with new discoveries about making ever-better cars,” he added.

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[Chips Yap]

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