Toyota's wooden concept car designed to bond with driver

Toyota's Setsuna wooden car is to be unveiled at the upcoming Milan Design Week.
Toyota's Setsuna wooden car is to be unveiled at the upcoming Milan Design Week. Credit: Rex

Eschewing carbon fibre, high-tensile steel and other cutting-edge materials used in modern automobiles, Toyota Motor Corp. is to unveil a wooden car at the upcoming Milan Design Week.

The body of the Setsuna - which is the Japanese term for "moment" - is made up of 86 hand-crafted panels of cedar across a frame of birch. 

The use of metal has been kept to a minimum in the engineered parts of the open-top roadster, which is powered by six batteries that give it a range of 16 miles and a top speed of a rather lumbering 28 mph.

But speed was not the primary aim of the project, Toyota said.

"When we created the Setsuna, we envisaged a family pouring its love into it over generations so that the car gains an irreplaceable value," said Kenji Tsuji, the lead engineer on the concept vehicle.]

"Continuous development is possible in the form of bonds between the car and the family, like the growth rings of a tree," he added.

Durable yet also prone to change over time, the decision to build a wooden car is also meant to demonstrate the "developing relationships between people and their cars," the company added.

The "100-year meter" counts time with the family. The short hand in the metre's aluminum case displays the time of day (one circuit is 24 hours), while the long hand shows the passing of days (one circuit is 365 days) and the counter metre displays the passing years. Credit: Rex


Irrespective of Toyota's attempt to bring drivers closer to their run-abouts, the two-seater Setsuna is a remarkable piece of workmanship. 

The body - which has an almost ship-like form - uses a traditional Japanese joinery technique known as "okuriari", which does not use nails or screws but relies on perfectly carved joints to hold the components together. 

The name Setsuna also expresses the Buddhist concept of time and is intended to remind the owner to live each moment to its fullest potential.

The body relies on perfectly carved joints to hold the components together. Credit: Rex


Another reminder comes in the shape of a dial on the dashboard that counts time in hours, days and years up to 100 years, an exercise in Zen that prompts the driver to value time and memories instead of the distance travelled.

Unfortunately, the Setsuna, which will be on display for five days from April 12 at the Japan Pavilion at Milan Design Week, is not authorised to be driven on public roads.

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