Toyota Camatte: A car for kids

Toyota Camatte DaichiCar companies are always trying to attract younger buyers, but Toyota is taking things one step further with its latest concept. The Camatte is designed to teach children to drive, and will make its public debut at the 2012 International Tokyo Toy Show.

Toyota designed the Camatte “for parents and children to experience together the fun of driving, car customization, and car enthusiasm.” The name is derived from the Japanese word for “care,” which is something every driver, especially those under the age of 16, should have.

Parents with visions of their five-year-olds careening down the highway in a full-size car needn’t worry. At 106.3 inches long and 51.2 inches wide, the Camatte is kid-sized. It’s about the same length as a Smart Fortwo, but almost ten inches narrower.

If the Camatte’s pint-sized driver does get too enthusiastic, it should be easy to fix. Every body panel, along with the lights, roof, and rear seats, is designed to be removable. Toyota says this allows children and parents to easily customize the Camatte by swapping in different panels (there are two body styles: blue Sora and tan Daichi), and teaches kids about the inner workings of the car. In addition, the entire body can be lifted off as one piece to allow quick access to the interior.

The Camatte is a three-seater, with two passenger seats behind and on either side of a central driver’s seat. The same configuration was used on the 240-mph McLaren F1. In the McLaren, the seating arrangement made the driver feel like he or she was in a Formula 1 car. In the Camatte, the seating arrangement makes it easy for a parent to reach around the young driver if things start heading south.Toyota Camatte Sora

As with all potentially dangerous toys, Toyota says the Camatte should only be used under adult supervision. Since its drivers are five to ten years away from their licenses, the Camatte is not road-legal. Toyota isn’t even thinking about selling it, but if it did, the company recommends that it be driven in open areas like fields or go-kart tracks.

The Camatte is a novel idea, but Toyota may have gone too far out of the box on this one. There are already plenty of vehicles designed for children: from Power Wheels to go-karts, there are plenty of ways to familiarize kids with cars before they try the real thing. The Camatte’s modularity is also a cool idea (it works for Automoblox), but it might challenge the mechanical skills of parents who don’t work on their own cars very much. This concept is too big to be a toy, but too small to be a car.