At a showroom in Tokyo last week, Toyota got in touch with its girly side. With the “DecoPrius,” a candy-apple red custom Toyota Prius emblazoned with decorative rhinestones, the carmaker hopes to catch the eye of a demographic that is growing increasingly cold to a product that once exemplified cool: the automobile.
According to a Bloomberg News, Japanese carmakers are scrambling to find new ways to get young people—particularly young women—interested in cars again. The article cites data from CSM Worldwide, an automotive market research firm, which has found that 90 percent of Japanese Prius buyers are men and that 70 percent are older than 50.
To counter this, Toyota looked to “DecoDen,” a custom decorative style that has been very popular with young Japanese females in recent years. DecoDen allows consumers to transform generic or ubiquitous products like notebooks or iPhones, into something one-of-a-kind. Throughout Asia, young people bring their laptops and handheld electronics into shops that in turn, cover them in rhinestones arranged into elaborate custom designs. Many also choose to customize items themselves, using home Deco kits.
Though there’s no indication that Toyota will be offering a Deco-edition Prius for sale anytime soon, the company’s Scion nameplate—which is aggressively marketed towards younger buyers—has been offering customized vehicles for a few years. (Mini Cooper buyers similarly can customize their rooftop decals.) In an age saturated with competing brand identities, companies like American Apparel, Dell and now Toyota, are realizing that many consumers—particularly younger ones—would rather make one good product their own than chose from three or four clumsily-designed efforts to appeal to a particular subculture.
Accordingly, Honda plans to significantly cut the number of models it sells in Japan in the coming years and is already incorporating custom paint jobs and aftermarket accessories into its sales strategy. The company’s Japanese website offers an array of exotic colors and finishes for the exterior, and dozens custom upholstery fabrics, floor-mats, and steering wheels for the interior. With its top-selling hybrid, the Prius, currently dominating sales in Japan, Toyota may soon have to follow suit, or risk a backlash from consumers not wanting to be “just another Prius.”