Jeff Makarewicz: Toyota Seizing Opportunity When Megatrends Collide

Jeff Makarewicz speaks at 2018 MICHauto SummitWalking out to David Bowie’s hit 1970s song “Changes,” Jeff Makarewicz, group vice president of vehicle, quality and safety engineering for Toyota Motor North America, said the song’s lyrics are a powerful message for companies in the age of new mobility.

“We are undergoing a profound transformation driven by new services, new competitors and global human challenges,” Makarewicz said. “Companies that embrace this disruption will be the difference between those that live and those that die.”

As part of his Automobility Forum town hall discussion at the MICHauto Summit, Makarewicz showed off Toyota’s e-Palette, an automated, electric, flexible vehicle concept that can be tailored to various needs and lifestyles. The concept, which debuted at CES 2018, is part of Toyota’s plan to develop a suite of connected mobility solutions.

Makarewicz pointed to four megatrends impacting Toyota and the overall industry in Michigan: the Internet of Things, autonomous machine learning, the rise of mobility as a service, and electrification.

As the industry evolves, Makarewicz said, one of the biggest challenges will be overcoming consumer perception around autonomous and electric vehicles. For instance, Makarewicz said the electric vehicle share of new vehicle sales in the United States still hovers near .6 percent, yet more and more consumers indicate an interest in purchasing an electric or hybrid vehicle.

“Companies are investing in a lot of technology and partnerships with many unknowns. Where is the money to be made? You can’t let that question stop you. You must be agile, forward-thinking and embrace risk. That is what we’re doing at Toyota,” he said.

Toyota: The Future of Auto is All About Constant Connection

A day after unveiling its all-new 2018 Camry, Toyota Motor Corp. outlined its strategy to remain a leader in connectivity through the next decade during a press conference at the North American International Auto Show (NAIAS) on Tuesday.

“The vehicle as we know it is transforming into a means of getting around that futurists have dreamed about for a long time,” said Sandy Lobenstein, Toyota’s executive vice president of connected vehicle services.

Toyota plans to connect all of its vehicles and provide customers with “services that truly enrich their lives” and “bond them” to Toyota brands by 2020, Lobenstein said.

The plan includes embedding data communication modules in all of the company’s new vehicles in Japan and the United States.

Lobenstein also outlined new services available through Toyota’s Entune 3.0 system. The service includes an enhanced cockpit navigation system, as well as Dynamic Voice Recognition, Destination Assist, which allows drivers to connect to a live operator, Entune Remote, which allows users to start an engine or lock and unlock a vehicle from a smartphone, and Service Connect, which provides vehicle health reports to the driver as well as a dealership.

View Lobenstein’s full presentation here.

Michigan Automakers Kick Off 2017 Auto Show with Flurry of Product Unveils

The 2017 North American International Auto Show kicked off in grand fashion at Cobo Center in Detroit with a flurry of product announcements and vehicle unveils Monday during the first day of media previews. Press Preview Days give more than 5,000 credentialed journalists from around the world an up-close look at the latest automotive, technology and mobility innovation. Highlights from the day include:

  • Audi unveiled its all-new redesigned SQ5. The lightweight SUV boasts a 3-liter V6 engine with 354 horsepower and 368 pounds of torque. The SQ5 is equipped with a suite of advanced driver assist features, including adaptive cruise control with traffic jam assist, and Audi Active Lane Assist. Read more about the SQ5.
  • BMW revealed its newest midsize 5-series sedan, which is equipped with adaptive LED headlights, fatigue and focus alerts and 18-inch, double-spoke wheels. The automaker also showed off its BMW X2 concept SUV and a new motorcycle. Read more about BMW.
  • Ford Motor Co. showed off its redesigned 2018 F-150 truck featuring a redesigned front-end grille and wheel options, new diesel engine, Apple Car Play and Android Auto compatibility, adaptive cruise control and driver safety technology. The automaker also laid out its vision for growing in the new mobility era through a mix of investment in smart technology development and autonomous vehicle research. Read more on Ford’s smart mobility vision.
  • General Motors Co. unveiled its 2018 Chevrolet Traverse crossover. The redesign features spacious three-row seating, 4G LTE wireless internet, and a 6-liter V6 engine boasting 305 horsepower and 260 pounds of torque. Read more about the Traverse.
  • Honda unveiled its 2018 Odyssey, which will be available at dealerships nationwide this spring. The next-generation Odyssey includes features such as a uniquely versatile Magic Slide second-row seat, new CabinWatch and CabinTalk technologies, and a new rear entertainment system with streaming video. Read more about Honda’s 2018 Odyssey.
  • Lexus unveiled its fifth-generation LS sedan featuring a “coupe-like” design, twin-turbo V6 engine capable of 415 horsepower and a new advanced safety package. Read more about the luxury sedan.
  • Mercedes-Benz unveiled its sleek E-class coupe, one of its newest additions to a newly designed AMG lineup. The coupe features twin-turbo V6 engines that produce 392 horsepower and a nine-speed automatic transmission. Options include autonomous vehicle following at up to 130 mph. Read more about the coupe.
  • Nissan unveiled its 2017 Nissan Rogue Sport. The body is edgier and precise by shaving 2.3 inches of wheelbase, 12.1 inches of total length and 5.1 inches of total height over the standard Rogue, making this option most suited for functionality and appeal. Read more about the Nissan Rogue Sport.
  • Toyota unveiled its 2018 Camry. The sleek design features three powertrain options, including an all-new 3.5-liter V6 engine, a 2.5-liter four-cylinder engine, and a hybrid model. Read more about the Camry.
  • Volkswagen unveiled its new Tiguan and Atlas R-Line SUV, both being launched in the United States this year. “North America is very significant for our brand, and the most important task we face is to regain the trust of our customers,” said Herbert Diess, chairman of the Volkswagen Brand Board of Management. The I.D. Buzz, the first zero-emission van to drive fully autonomously, was also debuted. The I.D. Buzz combines a tremendous amount of travel space with an electric driving range of up to 270 miles. Read more about the I.D. Buzz.

For more updates from the auto show, visit