If car enthusiasts could build their own country, Akio Toyoda would most likely be unanimously voted as president. The former Toyota CEO has been the driving force behind many fun cars introduced under the Gazoo Racing banner. Although the company founder’s grandson has been with Toyota since basically forever, he enjoys cars from other brands as well.
Imagine the confusion he created at the 2024 Tokyo Auto Salon where Toyota’s booth had a Suzuki. Not just any Suzuki, but the Internet’s favorite – the Jimny. It was one of the five vehicles at the so-called Morizo Garage earlier this month at the show held in Japan’s capital. If you’re unfamiliar with “Morizo,” it’s Akio Toyoda’s alter ego when he’s racing cars. Toyota has a thorough explanation of where that name comes from in its Toyota Times magazine.
As much as the chairman loves the Jimny, a badge-engineered version isn’t happening. Toyota reportedly wanted to sell its own version of the lovable go-anywhere SUV, but Suzuki said no. The smaller of the two Japanese automakers motivated its decision by saying the Jimny is deeply rooted in Suzuki’s DNA: “It’s like asking Toyota to let us badge engineer the Land Cruiser,” according to a statement by a company exec in an interview with Autocar India.
Since 2017, Toyota and Suzuki have been working together on multiple projects as part of a business alliance to share costs. In fact, Toyota even owns a 4.9% stake in Suzuki after a reciprocal arrangement that allowed Suzuki to acquire a 0.2% share in Toyota.
The Jimny was showcased alongside a modified GR Corolla and the obscure iQ GRMN. The latter was only sold in Japan where 100 units were built in 2009. A couple of years later, the iQ GRMN Supercharged arrived with a (yes, you’ve guessed it) supercharger that bumped the 1.33-liter engine by 27 hp and 41 lb-ft (56 Nm) to a mighty 120 hp and 128 lb-ft (174 Nm).
Introduced at the Tokyo Auto Salon, the Lexus LBX Morizo RR Concept was the first non-Toyota to use the turbocharged three-cylinder engine of the GR Yaris and GR Corolla. The 1.6-liter mill makes 300 hp and 295 lb-ft (400 Nm) delivered to the road via Toyota’s new eight-speed automatic transmission from the 2024 GR Yaris. The concept car is a one-off for now but it goes to show Akio Toyoda is keen on performance SUVs.
Speaking of which, the Morizo Garage also hosted an intriguing Century SUV GRMN with minivan-like electrically sliding rear doors. Toyota’s luxury SUV has received the sporty treatment with a more aggressive body and carbon fiber. It’s unclear whether the company intends to put the model into production. As a reminder, Akio Toyoda hit the track a few years ago in a Century Sedan GRMN.
The Jimny wasn’t the only product outside of the Toyota/Lexus empire since besides the five cars we mentioned, there was also a Yamaha Vino scooter. Akio explains he actually wanted a Vespa but those were expensive and decided instead to settle for a used Vino with worn tires and a cracked mudguard. However, when he came to pick up the scooter, the dealer had replaced it with a new one.
Toyota’s chairman mentions he bought all of his cars from dealerships like regular folks, without expecting any special treatment from the salespersons. However, he later admitted he took advantage of his high-ranked position in the company to cut in line and buy the GRMN cars:
“I beg them to get just one for me, and force my way in. Let me abuse my privilege that much.”
Akio was asked how many cars he owns, and while he never counted them, he did say he has a few limited edition vehicles, especially GRMN models.