Introducing the Toyota Five Continents Drive

12 September 2017

In 2014, supporting President Akio Toyoda’s vision of creating Ever-Better cars, Toyota embarked on a seven-year project of unparalleled scale: a continuous global initiative to put Toyota vehicles to the ultimate test, across every possible terrain and climate on every continent worldwide.

The Five Continents Drive has been introduced to help everyone at Toyota to deliver ever-better cars that excite our customers and exceed their expectations. It is a long-term project that has the power to unite all of 340,000 members of Toyota’s workforce around the world.

“Roads train people, and people make cars”; that ethos has been the backbone of the Five Continents Drive project. It is about enabling engineers to get out from behind their desks to feel the road, to experience first-hand how vehicle performance is impacted by the wide variety of driving conditions around the world, and to gather new insights. By connecting with customers in a meaningful way and listening to their feedback, Toyota can better understand their needs and patterns of vehicle use.

The Five Continents Drive matches Akio Toyoda’s desire for Toyota to create cars that are fun to drive. “I wanted to change how people who work at Toyota feel through the Five Continents Drive,” he said. “If we try to create cars that will sell simply as a business, we will end up becoming a company that pursues this alone. We can’t build cars if we only take data from the test course. This is why we have to face the roads and the harsh environments in which our customers use our vehicles. The valuable information that we gain will improve the skills of our engineers and help us to create ever-better cars.”

The first two continents covered by the Five Continents Drive have been completed safely with resounding success and inspiring feedback from those who have participated. From Australia to North America and, most recently, Latin America, nearly 70,000km of roads, some previously unchartered, have been covered in the pursuit of creating better, cleaner and safer vehicles.

The Five Continents Drive began in 2014 with an opening leg in Australia, where 80 per cent of the world’s most demanding roads can be found. The team travelled cross-country through vast and rugged terrain, starting and finishing in Melbourne, home of the Toyota Motor Corporation Australia headquarters. The expedition took in 20,000km over 72 days and with 13 vehicles.

The expedition continued into North America in 2015, covering 28,000km over 109 days with 24 vehicles from across the Toyota range. The itinerary was split into two sections with a summer leg starting in Texas, and a winter route venturing into the icy Canadian and Alaskan climate.

In 2016, the journey moved on to Latin America, with three legs covering 20,000 km over 78 individual days and 16 different vehicles used. Divided into three parts, the opening leg covered Brazil to Paraguay, the second took in Chile, Peru and Bolivia, and the concluding part covered Argentina and Uruguay.

This year, it’s the turn of Europe. The seven-year cycle will then progress to Africa and then Asia where the project will conclude in 2020 in Japan. That year will see Tokyo host the Olympic and Paralympic Games. Toyota is a TOP partner for the Games, providing sustainable mobility to the entire Olympic and Paralympic movement.

The Five Continents Drive project is being run under the TOYOTA GAZOO Racing umbrella, as the global brand for Toyota’s motorsport operations.

Kiichiro Toyoda, the founder of Toyota, once said that motorsports are vital to the evolution of car making and the entire auto industry. This belief has been passed down over the generations and embodied most recently as TOYOTA GAZOO Racing.

It represents the company’s commitment to overcoming every limit in the pursuit of creating ever-better cars through motorsport. What we learn at the very limits of performance, we seek to transfer into benefits for everyday driving.

But the TOYOTA GAZOO Racing spirit goes beyond even this. Characterised by the ultimate goal of creating ever-better cars, the Five Continents Drive project exists to directly develop human resources by exposing participants to the most varied and challenging road conditions around the world. This experience is much more than visual; it’s about sharpening each of the senses to “feel” the roads and cars together and, as a consequence, to develop the skills to make Ever-Better cars.

By uniting Toyota team members across all continents, the project aims to increase collaboration globally. Driving in a convoy of some of Toyota’s best-loved models, the project is the ultimate test of real vehicles in the real world.

The itinerary takes in some of the most punishing terrains that each continent has to offer, visiting key Toyota facilities on the way. It’s not just going down the paths well-trodden; it is about encountering the unknown, and finding new places to drive.

Expedition teams have encountered harsh roads and revived Toyota’s passion and hungry spirit. Driving distances farther than they had driven before, they were able to rediscover the intrinsic fun of cars. Thinking about cars holistically and realising that these vehicles are built by their peers, they got a sense of how well loved Toyota cars are by their owners. It is about unity: creating ever-better cars that exceed customers’ ever-higher expectations irrespective of culture, values and customs.

Europe is one of the world’s most complex and progressive territories. It is as culturally diverse as it is environmentally with more than 30 languages spoken.

Regarded as the birthplace of the automotive industry, Europe offers a totally different set of challenges and opportunities to the continents that have preceded it on this project. Europe’s unique blend of politics, history, culture and laws has shaped the driving conditions in each of its countries.

The Five Continents Drive route for Europe, which has been developed based on input from a knowledgeable group of Toyota technicians and engineers, tackles the widest cross section of the continent. In all, more than 20 countries will be visited across two legs over a distance of 19,000km.

The precise route has been split into two distinct periods, one specifically for the summer months and one for the more treacherous winter conditions, so the convoy can capture the complete range of climatic conditions that Europe has to offer: from the searing summer heat in Portugal to the claustrophobic humidity in urban city centres and on to the frozen wintry roads of Scandinavia.

The eight-week summer itinerary covers around 13,000km in the western and southern countries, before arriving at the Toyota Motor Europe headquarters in Brussels, Belgium.

The route takes in some of Europe’s best-known road types, from winding mountainous passes, over roundabouts and cobblestones to narrow streets in bustling city centres and the high-speed Autobahn in Germany.

A second four-week winter expedition will take in the north and east, covering 6,000km. It will starti in Copenhagen, Denmark, and will conclude at the TOYOTA GAZOO Racing World Rally Team factory in Puppola, Finland.

The summer expedition will also put vehicles to the test on the world famous and technically renowned Nürburgring circuit in Germany. Acting as the midway point in the first route, the venue has a special significance for Toyota through its connection to TOYOTA GAZOO Racing.

“GAZOO Racing” first entered the Nürburgring 24 Hours in 2007. Known as the world’s most punishing racetrack, the Nürburgring is symbolic of TOYOTA GAZOO Racing, as well as marking a key point in our Five Continents Drive.

With its intense up-and-down hills and rough road conditions, it is arguably the best track in the world to test the limits of both man and machine.

The Nürburgring is held in high regard by automobile manufacturers, many of whom test their vehicles there. The mountainous terrain is well-used in the design of the track which rises and falls through 300m with 17% gradients.

It is precisely the track’s unique challenges that make it such a spiritual place for TOYOTA GAZOO Racing; a place where we can learn and improve.

All the valuable information, customer feedback and driving experiences gathered by the team during its journey across Europe will be shared across the worldwide Toyota organisation to move one step closer towards the company’s mission of making ever-better cars.

Download this release as a PDF below

Introducing the Toyota Five Continents Drive


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